MS Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings and Rohit Sharma's Mumbai Indians, two most successful teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL), will fight for supremacy in the final to be played at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on Sunday. Mumbai Indians, who outplayed Chennai Super Kings in the first qualifier, will go into IPL 2019 final as favourites. Moreover, Chennai Super Kings, who will be locking horns with Mumbai Indians for the fourth time in the ongoing IPL, are yet to beat their familiar foes this season.
However, statistics count for little going into the title fight with both teams being in the situation before multiple times.
Mumbai Indians can certainly take confidence out of the fact that they have won three out of the four finals they have been part of, including the two against CSK in 2013 and 2015.
For three-time champions CSK, who have entered their eighth final, it has been another remarkable season after last year when they made a triumphant return having serving a two-year suspension.
Whatever the outcome may be, the final in Hyderabad will add another memorable chapter to their longtime rivalry.
With the World Cup beginning right after the IPL, the league had additional significance for tainted Australian stars - Steve Smith and David Warner - who made a successful return after serving out one-year bans for their role in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
Warner especially made a roaring return by amassing 692 runs and formed the most dangerous opening pairing this season alongside Jonny Bairstow. The left-handed opener, who is back in Australia for the World Cup preparation, is set to end as the tournament's highest run-getter.
For India's very own, Hardik Pandya and K L Rahul, it was also a tournament to remember with both hitting top-gear ahead of the World Cup.
Having served a BCCI suspension for their outrageous comments on women during a TV show, Pandya and Rahul got their act together and proved match-winners for their respective teams. Pandya is not done yet and expect him to deliver a match-winning performance for Mumbai in the final. He and KKR's Andre Russell elevated power hitting to another level with their sensational strokeplay.
Besides producing plenty of on-field moments to savour, IPL 2019 had its fair share of controversies. Amongst the ones that stood out involved KXIP skipper Ravichandran Ashwin and talismanic CSK captain MS Dhoni.
Early into the competition, Ashwin triggered a massive 'spirit of cricket' debate in the entire cricketing fraternity by 'Mankading' Jos Buttler who was backing up at the non striker's end. There were some who backed Ashwin's act, while some were against it.
The controversial incident even attracted the attention of MCC, the custodian of game's laws. Two weeks later, none other than Dhoni's conduct was questioned after he stormed onto the pitch from the dugout to dispute a no-ball call. It was a rare sight of Dhoni losing his cool.
Umpires were at the receiving end again after making some poor calls, raising serious questions over the standard of Indian umpires. The issue of over-rate too will have to be taken into account while planning for the next season with some of the league games stretching beyond midnight. Bringing the focus back to the final on Sunday, CSK will have to redraw their plans against Mumbai, who have beaten them convincingly three times this season.
Mumbai Indians have dealt with CSK's spin threat smartly while other teams' batsmen struggled against the experience trio of Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja. CSK pacer Deepak Chahar too has been impressive with 19 wickets so far.
Going into the Qualifier 2, the lack of runs from Shane Watson's bat was a concern but he regained his touch with a 32-ball 50 against Delhi Capitals. Mumbai, on the other hand, will be well rested following a four-day break and backing themselves for a fourth win over Dhoni's side this season and fourth IPL title.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja, Dhruv Shorey, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Rituraj Gaikwad, Dwayne Bravo, Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Santner, Shardul Thakur, Mohit Sharma, K M Asif, Deepak Chahar, N Jagadeesan, Scott Kuggeleijn.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (C), Quinton de Kock, Suryakumar Yadav, Yuvraj Singh, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Mitchell McClenaghan, Mayank Markande, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Anmolpreet Singh, Siddhesh Lad, Ankul Roy, Evin Lewis, Pankaj Jaiswal, Ben Cutting, Ishan Kishan, Aditya Tare, Rasikh Salam, Barinder Sran, Jayant Yadav, Beuran Hendricks and Lasith Malinga.
Match starts 7:30 pm.
(With PTI Inputs)