There is no love lost between Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians. Every time these implacable foes take to the field, a fresh stream of bad blood readily accompanies them leaving the arena strewn with dented egos and wounded pride.
By popular opinion, this rivalry dwarfs the one that CSK shares with Royal Challengers Bangalore which gets accorded the top billing every year mainly due to the geographical proximity of the two cities involved more than matters pertaining to cricket.
Cricketing-wise, it would be a great folly to call it a rivalry considering Chennai’s big brother attitude towards Bengaluru, even if MS Dhoni sometimes narrowly fails in condemning RCB to a galling defeat like the one we witnessed last week.
But, if one were to go purely by merit leaving aside all other extraneous factors such as distance, speed and time, it’s hard to think of any other rivalry that comes close to matching the size and scale of these two behemoths.
Their head-to-head record substantiates that claim and what’s more both these teams have won the IPL a record three times each. Of the three titles that Mumbai owns, two had come at the expense of the Super Kings, while the Dhoni-led team lifted its maiden IPL crown defeating Mumbai in its backyard. Chennai would be itching to break free from that joint record-holder tag and instead be the sole owner of the most number of trophies come May 12.
In the current edition’s two-part series, Mumbai prevailed over Chennai comfortably in the first leg — with Hardik Pandya proving to be the difference — and the Super Kings fans will now want their team to return that compliment with interest. Mumbai will be hoping that it will succeed where five others failed in trying to lay siege to Chepauk earlier this season. Each of those five teams will vouch for the fact that there is no greater challenge than to encroach on the lion’s territory and come out unscathed as it is zealously safeguarded from any sinister designs of the enemy.
On the form front, the home team will have been greatly relieved that Shane Watson batted against Sunrisers like the Watson of IPL 2018 when he went on a rampaging run leaving the bowlers demoralised and running the fielders ragged.
Mike Hussey, the Super Kings batting coach, said on the eve of the match that the team management always knew that it was only a matter of time before Watson hit his stride following a string of low scores. “We were aware that a big score was around the corner with regard to Watson seeing how well he was batting in the nets. It was pleasing to see MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming repose their faith in him and they have now been rewarded. We had relied heavily on Dhoni in our earlier games and as we approach the business end, we would like to see everyone contribute,” added Hussey.
A win against Mumbai will all but ensure the Super Kings’ entry into the playoffs and with the kind of enviable record it has at home this season, it will be foolhardy to expect anything other than a home team’s win.