Battle of the best as Chennai-Mumbai play-off
It will be a battle of equals when mighty Chennai Super Kings meet formidable Mumbai Indians in the first play-off match of the Pepsi Indian Premier League in Delhi on Tuesday.
On paper, there is very little to choose between the two teams. Both have won 11 out of 16 matches and have a number of match-winners who can turn tables on a given day.
Mumbai Indians, under the stewardship of Rohit Sharma, has been a force to reckon with, having won all their eight matches at home, while CSK's season was a mix, but they successfully finished off a number of close encounters, which is their hallmark over the years.
Mumbai Indians might just have a psychological advantage having beaten the 'Men in Yellow' in the home and away games.
However, it will be an altogether different test on neutral venue, the Feroz Shah Kotla, which is known for producing dodgy 22-yard strips over the years.
With both teams relying on their batsmen to click, one can brace for some battles within the main contest.
Image: Chennai Super Kings player celebrate the fall of a wicket
All eyes on Tendulkar
It could be a Sachin Tendulkar versus Ravichandran Ashwin, Mahendra Singh Dhoni versus Harbhajan Singh, Kieron Pollard against Mohit Sharma or Mike Hussey versus Pragyan Ojha affair.
Tendulkar is likely to make a comeback at the top of the order and the senior batsman will certainly be looking to make an impact.
Only 287 runs from 14 matches this season, at an average of over 22, is not something that Tendulkar will be too happy about. His form was patchy, but the occasional brilliance, like the knock against Kolkata Knight Riders in Mumbai, can be expected any time.
With the dangerous Dwayne Smith as a partner, one can expect an explosive start from the duo.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Rohit Sharma looking to maintain good run
Skipper Rohit, an IPL specialist, again excelled in the Mumbai Indians jersey, scoring 526 runs, and will be looking to improve upon that performance.
The big-bodied Pollard, with his ability to clear the ropes at will, is also a force to reckon with.
In the bowling department, Mitchell Johnson (22 wickets @ economy rate of 7.11) and Harbhajan (19 wickets @6.66 runs per over) have been consistent. In fact, the senior off-spinner will certainly have a point to prove to his rival Ashwin, who has got 15 wickets at an economy rate of 6.62.
Image: Rohit Sharma
Chennai masters in chasing down targets
If Mumbai Indians have excelled in setting up big totals, Chennai Super Kings have been masters in chasing down any target.
If 60 runs required in four overs was considered impossible even a few years back, thanks to the talismanic CSK skipper, any target looks achievable when 'Captain Cool' MSD is at the crease.
In fact, Dhoni often says jokingly that CSK's game starts at the end of the 10th over.
'Mr Cricket' Hussey is in unbelievable form, having scored 646 runs at an average of nearly 50, magnificent in terms of T20 cricket. With Suresh Raina (466), who has never disappointed in the CSK shirt, the skipper himself has scored 398 runs, but, more importantly, has the capability of finishing off matches from near-impossible situations.
Chennai's bowling depends a lot on how Dwayne Bravo bowls during the middle-overs. With 25 wickets, Bravo is Dhoni's 'Go-To' man in crisis situations and is one of the favourites to get the 'Purple Cap'.
Image: Mike Hussey
Mohit Sharma 17 scalps this season
Haryana seamer Mohit Sharma is one of the finds of this IPL season with 17 scalps and it will be interesting to see his temperament in a big match situation where the margin of error is minimal.
Mohit will be encouraged by the fact that last time he played at the Kotla, he decimated Delhi Daredevils' top-order with a fantastic first spell.
A good show in the knock-outs can earn him a berth in the India 'A' squad to South Africa, which is scheduled to tour at the end of next month.
While Chris Morris also has been decent with the chances got, the Chennai management might be tempted to field Albie Morkel in place of young West Indian Jason Holder, who was a touch expensive in the matches he played.
In all, a cracker of a contest is expected.
Chennai Super Kings: M S Dhoni (Capt), Akila Dananjaya, Albie Morkel, Srikkanta Anirutha, Ankit Rajpoot, Baba Aparajith, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ben Laughlin, Chris Morris, Dirk Nannes, Dwayne Bravo, Francois du Plessis, Imtiyaz Ahmed, Jason Holder, Michael Hussey, Mohit Sharma, Murali Vijay, Nuwan Kulasekara, R Karthikeyan, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ronit More, Shadab Jakati, S Badrinath, Suresh Raina, Vijay Shankar and Wridhiman Saha.
Mumbai Indians: Ricky Ponting (Capt), Abu Nechim Ahmed, Akshar Patel, Aditya Tare, Aiden Blizzard, Ambati Rayudu, Amitoze Singh, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik, Dwayne Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Harbhajan Singh, Jacob Oram, Jalaj Saxena, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Munaf Patel, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Phil Hughes, Pawan Suyal, Pragyan Ojha, Rishi Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar, Suryakumar Yadav, Sushant Marathe, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal.
Image: Mohit Sharma