Will CSK overcome controversy and Mumbai?
Embroiled in the spot-fixing scam, becoming champions for a third time will be a daunting task for the Chennai Super Kings when they take on the formidable Mumbai Indians in the summit clash of the scandal-marred Indian Premier League, in Kolkata, on Sunday.
The arrest of its management official, M Gurunath, who is the son-in-law of the team owner and BCCI president N Srinivasan, on suspicion of betting must have surely dented the morale of the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side.
It will be a huge challenge for the players and their skipper to cope with the situation and play their natural game against a team that is keen to win that elusive trophy.
On paper, it's a battle of equals
Chennai have been a part of four consecutive, five overall, finals, but it is the best chance for Mumbai to take a good shot at the title and avenge their 2010 final defeat.
Also, they will want to win it as a gift to senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar. It is the one trophy that is missing from the cabinet of the milestone man of Indian cricket. He had a heartbreak as Mumbai Indians captain in 2010 when the team lost to Dhoni's men by 22 runs.
It was CSK's first IPL title and since then Dhoni's team has grown in stature.
On paper, it's a battle of equals, with both Chennai and Mumbai boasting explosive Twenty20 specialists in Michael Hussey, Dwayne Smith, Ravindra Jadeja and Kieron Pollard.
Both teams have a penetrating pace attack with Albie Morkel and the season's find Mohit Sharma doing a tidy job for Chennai, while Mitchell Johnson, Lasith Malinga and Pollard make a terrific trio in the Mumbai ranks.
Harbhajan's return to form
In conditions where spin-bowling could prove a decisive factor, Chennai have a star-studded line-up in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, but Mumbai can match them with the experienced duo of Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha.
The return to form of Harbhajan (3/23), who had a man-of-the-match performance against Rajasthan Royals on Friday night, should augur well for Mumbai even as they face injury concerns with regard to Ojha, who has hurt his elbow.
That Eden is a happy hunting ground for Mumbai (five wins from six outings) should certainly give Rohit Sharma's team an edge.
Dwayne Smith's red-hot form is another advantage and Mumbai will hope the West Indian will fire again and steer the side without gifting his wicket away.
Smith's 44-ball 62 (second successive half-century) was once again the highlight of the second qualifier before Mumbai.
Image: Harbhajan Singh
Mumbai will hope Rohit Sharma gets going
Incidentally, Sharma was part of the triumphant Deccan Chargers in 2009 and it will be a second IPL final for the Mumbai skipper. The only issue he will have to address is the team's tendency to choke in the middle.
It has been a frustrating month for Sharma, as the batsman hasn't been able to convert his starts, his last half-century (79 unbeaten) coming against Kings XI Punjab way back on April 29.
Sharma's woeful form with the bat continued in the last match as well when his middle stump was rattled by Siddharth Trivedi.
Mumbai will hope that the skipper gets into the act especially on the stage that matters the most.
Image: Rohit Sharma
Hussey holds the key
Chennai is a team full of stars, with Orange Cap holder Micheal Hussey leading the run charts with 732 runs (@56.30). 'Mr Cricket' will look to contribute again along with another Dhoni's trusted lieutenant Suresh Raina, who has 548 runs (45.66) including an unbeaten 100.
In bowling, Dwayne Bravo has been Dhoni's go to man with 28 wickets. Dhoni will also look up to the young Mohit who has impressed with 19 scalps from 17 matches.
But it's the duo of Ashwin and Jadeja who will be encouraged by the Eden conditions and they will look to get maximum out of the spin-friendly conditions.
Image: Michael Hussey