In a tournament that has seen teams struggle to win when on tour, Chennai Super Kings have been an exception. They are the only team in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013 to have won each of their away games so far, a statistic that would add to the air of anticipation when they clash against Mumbai Indians at Wankhede Stadium on Sunday (May 5).
If Chennai have a proud away record, the same can be said about Mumbai's performance at home. Four wins in as many matches suggests that they would be no pushovers despite coming into the game on the back of a big seven-wicket loss against Sunrisers Hyderabad last Wednesday.
After a lot of tinkering in the initial stages, the team seems to have found a combination that is working for them. Rohit Sharma at the helm has meant they've had options to choose from when it comes to the foreign players. Ricky Ponting's decision to sit out opened the door for Dwayne Smith to join Sachin Tendulkar at the top of the batting order, a role he has embraced with open arms. Mumbai have also been able to field Mitchell Johnson, who has played a key role with the new ball, regularly. That aside, Kieron Pollard and Lasith Malinga have been regulars, though Pollard is under an injury cloud after hurting his finger while training on the eve of the match and his participation against Chennai will be confirmed only prior to the match.
While Tendulkar is nowhere near his dominating best, the form of Smith, Rohit, Dinesh Karthik and Pollard has often been good enough, with the average score batting first at home being 190. Rohit has accumulated 375 runs including four fifties so far, while Karthik, who has earned a recall to the Indian team for the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy, is not too far behind with 331 runs at a strike rate of 140.
Mumbai have had an abundance of riches with the ball, but are yet to utilise it to the fullest. Harbhajan Singh's role as an attacking option has backfired often, while Pragyan Ojha has blown hot and cold. The emergence of Dhawal Kulkarni to complement Malinga, who also hasn't been at his best, and Johnson has helped them, but they can't afford slip-ups against a formidable Chennai batting line-up.
Chennai are on a seven-match winning streak and are in ominous form. Unlike in the past, when they have made a late dash towards the qualifiers, their position in the top four is more or less secure with five games to go this season.
Murali Vijay's recovery from a finger injury will undoubtedly boost a strong batting line-up that has both Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina in tremendous form. Whether the team management is willing to bring Vijay back straightaway remains to be seen, but if he does return, it is likely to be at the expense of Wriddhiman Saha.
Raina and Hussey have been well backed up by MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja, which means the only other change, possibly, could be in the bowling department. Given that Mohit Sharma, the Haryana pacer, has exceeded expectations, there could be a toss-up between Dirk Nannes and Albie Morkel.
However, Chennai, who have nine wins in eleven matches so far, would do well to remember that one of their two losses was against Mumbai, that too at home. While for Mumbai, who are jostling to remain in the top four, a win would go a long way in giving their campaign a fillip as the tournament enters its business end.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (capt), Abu Nechim Ahmed, Amitoze Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rishi Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Dhawal Kulkarni, Sushant Marathe, Pragyan Ojha, Akshar Patel, Munaf Patel, Ambati Rayudu, Jalaj Saxena, Pawan Suyal, Aditya Tare, Sachin Tendulkar, Suryakumar Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Ricky Ponting, Aiden Blizzard, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Franklin, Phillip Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Jacob Oram, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), Murali Vijay, Michael Hussey, Suresh Raina, Subramaniam Badrinath, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jason Holder, Chris Morris, Mohit Sharma, Albie Morkel, Dirk Nannes, Ankit Rajpoot, Shadab Jakati, Anirudha Srikkanth, Baba Aparajith, Imtiaz Ahmed, R Karthikeyan, Ronit More, Vijay Shankar, Wriddhiman Saha, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ben Laughlin.