Indian T20 League: Mumbai and Chennai set to rekindle rivalry
A rivalry that breeds on excellence and a never-ending thirst for success – Mumbai versus Chennai is the marquee matchup in the Indian T20 League.
For the second time in three seasons and fourth time in league history, the two teams will go head-to-head in the season opener of the Indian T20 League at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Of the 12 Indian T20 League finals so far, only two have not featured either of these two sides. Mumbai and Chennai have played four Indian T20 League finals against each other, with Chennai winning one and Mumbai triumphing on three occasions.
The parallels between their title victories also tell a tale of just how iconic this rivalry is. Chennai’s first Indian T20 League title came at the Wankhede Stadium against MI, while Mumbai won their maiden title at Chepauk, outclassing CSK in the final, meaning both teams won their first Indian T20 League titles by beating the home team on their home ground.
The duo, spearheaded by two of India’s greatest batsmen - Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Rohit Sharma – are perennial favourites to win the title with this year being no different. Mumbai will be seeking their sixth-straight victory over a depleted Chennai side who will be without the franchise’s all-time leading run-scorer Suresh Raina and veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh, who returned home from the UAE for personal reasons.
Irrespective of the squad compositions, Mumbai versus Chennai always serves up a tasty contest and both teams will be keen on starting off on the right note in the UAE.
Players to watch out for:
Chennai – Dwayne Bravo
Since joining the Chennai, the Caribbean all-rounder has been sensational for the team.
Bravo has picked up 118 wickets for the Super Kings in 103 matches and is just two shy of Ravichandran Ashwin’s franchise record of 120 wickets. The 36-year-old has also scored 1203 runs for the Super Kings and been a game-changer with both bat and ball for the three-time Indian T20 League champions.
Bravo loves playing against the Mumbai. His record against his former side is incredible. Bravo has picked up 28 wickets against the Mumbai, the most by any bowler against the defending champions and the fourth-most for one bowler against an Indian T20 League team.
In the season-opener in 2018, Bravo scored an incredible 68 off 30 to lift Chennai from the jaws of defeat and carry them to victory at the Wankhede Stadium against Mumbai. Expect a solid performance from the veteran on Saturday.
Mumbai – Rohit Sharma
The arrival of Rohit Sharma is one of the most important moments in Mumbai history.
Bought ahead of the 2013 season, Sharma has led Mumbai to four Indian T20 League titles and is the league’s most successful player with five winners’ medals to his name.
With 4,898 runs to his name, the 33-year-old is third on the list of the all-time leading run-scorers in the Indian T20 League, behind Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Virat Kohli (5412) and Chennai’s Suresh Raina (5368).
Sharma has been prolific against Chennai. In 27 matches, the Mumbai skipper has scored 705 runs at a good strike rate of 125. Only Kohli, with 747, has scored more runs against the Super Kings.
The opener’s most memorable performance against Chennai came in the 2015 Indian T20 League final, where he took the Super Kings’ bowlers to the cleaners, scoring 50 off just 26 balls, guiding Mumbai to a massive total of 202/5, which they defended with ease to lift their second Indian T20 League title.
While he’s won accolades aplenty, Sharma is yet to get his hands on the Indian T20 League’s Orange Cap, which awarded to the player with the most runs in the season. Having confirmed that he’ll be opening the innings in 2020 for Mumbai, the 33-year-old will look to erase the only blemish on his storied Indian T20 League career.
Stats to watch out for
0: Mumbai have won none of their five games in the UAE. In the 2014 season, the team opened their campaign with five straight losses but still managed to make it to the playoffs, where they were ousted by Chennai in the Eliminator. CSK have won four out of their five matches in the UAE, losing only to KXIP, who also beat them in Qualifier 2 of the 2014 Indian T20 League campaign.
43.40: While Jasprit Bumrah is undoubtedly Mumbai' best bowler, his record against Chennai is surprisingly poor, with a dismal average of 43.40 and strike-rate of 36.8. It will be interesting to see whether the 26-year-old can begin to address this uncharacteristic blemish on his otherwise stellar resume.
102: Rohit Sharma is a century and a couple of runs away from becoming the third man in Indian T20 League history to score 5,000 runs after Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina. He’s currently 470 runs behind Suresh Raina in the list of the league’s all-time leading run-scorers. With Raina having already confirmed he will not be playing in the Indian T20 League this season, chances are that Sharma leapfrogs him into second place on the all-time list.
1000: Top-order batsman Suryakumar Yadav is just 64 runs away from completing 1,000 runs in the Indian T20 League for the Mumbai. The 30-year-old was bought by the Mumbai in 2018 Indian T20 League auction and has been a great value for money, scoring 936 in 19 matches over the past two seasons. He also needs just three sixes to complete 50 maximums in the Indian T20 League.
Chennai are significantly weakened by the absence of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh, both terrific operators on slow pitches. Add to that the fact that neither Shane Watson nor Mahendra Singh Dhoni has played in a competitive cricket match for over a year, rust will be a big factor for the veterans.
Mumbai, on the other hand, are one of, if not the most, stacked side in the Indian T20 League this season. While Lasith Malinga’s decision to sit the year out will be a blow, the addition of Trent Boult, Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Pattinson should negate the Sri Lankan’s loss.
This match is truly a no-brainer. Mumbai for the win.
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Feature image courtesy: AFP / Arun Sankar / Noah Seelam