Mumbai Indians have faced Chennai Super Kings 17 times — more than any other team in the Indian Premier League. This particular statistic means that the two are familiar foes. Come Wednesday and the two teams will be at loggerheads once again in the Eliminator round of the IPL 7 at the Brabourne Stadium.
It would be one hot battle between the teams who have come to the knockout stage through different routes. If Chennai Super Kings have been one of the most consistent side in terms of results, Mumbai Indians have have had to rough it out.
Out of 14 games, Chennai managed to win nine and lose five to finish third on the table with 18 points while Mumbai had seven wins and as many defeats in 14 games before they overcame Rajasthan Royals on Sunday to qualify for the Eliminator.
For Rohit Sharma-led side, it has been a roller coaster ride. While many wrote the team off after their five successive defeats in the United Arab Emirates leg, they bounced back to win seven games in India. The key to their success has been the return to their fortress – the Wankhede Stadium — where they won four games out of five.
Their last league do-or-die encounter against Rajasthan will be talked about for a long time given Corey Anderson's heroics and Aditya Tare's timely six that shaped the successful chase of an improbable 190 in 14.4 overs to advance to the next stage.
Coming back to the Eliminator, Mumbai despite their better record (nine wins and eight defeats off 17 games vs CSK), and the home crowd on their side, will be the one under pressure.
They may have miraculously turned around their last game against Rajasthan, but they still don't have a balanced side to take on the likes of CSK.
Mumbai have a good batting line-up — comprising top order Lendl Simmons and Michael Hussey, who have returned to form with big hitters Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, Corey Anderson and Aditya Tare in the middle, their weak link is bowling.
Sharma must be struggling to find proper new ball bowlers after Zaheer Khan was ruled out due to shoulder injury and Lasith Malinga is away on national duty. He will have to persist with Anderson and youngster Jasprit Bumrah. Harbhajan Singh will be the key in spin department as Pragyan Ojha and Shreyas Gopal are not in form.
Chennai, on the other hand, is a settled line-up. They have a strong batting line-up that consists of dangerous players like Dwayne Smith, Faf du Plesis, skipper Dhoni, David Hussey and Suresh Raina. While the bowling comprises international quality bowlers in R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohit Sharma and a few more.
Mumbai's Anderson, who starred in the match against Rajasthan, said the team will play fearless cricket. "We've fallen back in games in the last couple of weeks and still found a way to win. There was still the desire to drive through and win it. If we can keep that fearless nature about us, we'll be a force to reckon with," said Anderson on the eve of the encounter.
Meanwhile, CSK coach Stephen Fleming is optimistic of Chennai's chances. "Mumbai were excellent against us last year. We had some revenge this year with two wins (In UAE and Wankhede Stadium in the round robin stage). But it's not going to be easy. It's a home game for Mumbai. We have to play extremely well. We had a great tussle with them at Wankhede and this is not going to be any different tomorrow (Wednesday)," Fleming said.