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A clash of equals

Almost all the 'Most Valuable Player' ratings show that Chennai do not have a single player in the top five, reports KR Guruprasad.Route to semis.

cricket Updated: May 31, 2008 01:47 IST
K R Guruprasad

Almost all the 'Most Valuable Player' ratings put out by various agencies show that Chennai do not have a single player, either batsman or bowler, in the top five — or worse, in many instances, not even in the top 10.

Despite this blemish — if it can be considered one — the team led by the charismatic Mahendra Singh Dhoni has made it to the last four of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Chennai would be eager to show that ratings don't matter in terms of results by shutting out Mohali in the second semifinal at the Wankhede Stadium here on Saturday.

Despite lacking a standout performer like Delhi's Gautam Gambhir or Mumbai's Sanath Jayasuriya, Chennai have played as a team and, the inconsistent show notwithstanding, have done well enough to earn a semifinal berth.

On the other hand, Mohali, led by Yuvraj Singh, are a consistent lot and have been the second best team in the league phase, finishing just two points adrift of leaders Jaipur. But what might go against them is that they lost both the home and away matches to Chennai in the league. However, captains have stressed throughout the league that records do not mean much in Twenty20.

Shaun-sational

Before the IPL, most of us knew Shaun Marsh as a budding cricketer and son of former Australian bat Geoff Marsh. It has taken the 24-year-old just 10 matches and little over a month in India to establish himself as a force. No single player has dominated the league like the Aussie.

The southpaw tops the batting charts with 593 runs from 10 matches at an average of 74.12 and a deadly strike-rate of almost 140. He stands head and shoulders above the other top-scorers because he has played only 10 matches. Others have played a minimum of 13.

Beyond Marsh, Mohali have Yuvraj, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Chennai bowlers know they are dangerous.

Chennai's batting woes

Chennai's batting depends on Dhoni, Suresh Raina and S. Badrinath. If they have won eight matches, it is because these three have come good more often than not. Their middle order is also strengthened by all-rounder Albie Morkel, who has been quite consistent.

But the problem for Chennai is the top order. They have struggled for a good opening pair after Matthew Hayden left. Just when it seemed like Stephen Fleming and Parthiv Patel were gelling, the New Zealander flew back home on Wednesday to be with his wife for the birth of their child.

Chennai's S Vidyut is most likely to open with Parthiv. The opening pair might again prove to be a spot of bother for Dhoni. Also, they have been shuffling their batting sequence in almost every match. But Raina, who played a match-winning knock against Hyderabad, has been promoted to number three and this might just settle down a few things for his team.

The bowlers

Mohali have match winners in leg-spinner Piyush Chawla and left-arm pacer Irfan Pathan and S. Sreesanth. The other fast bowler, VRV Singh, is no pushover either.