When they began with a bang, winning four matches in a row, Chennai were hardly expected to break a sweat on their way to the semifinals of the Indian Premier League (IPL). And not many at that time would have bet a paisa on them that the team, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, would need to defeat the last placed Hyderabad to make it to the last four.
But that’s what the league points’ table says — Chennai have to beat Hyderabad in their last league match here on Tuesday to make the grade.
With 14 points in their bag, Chennai are fourth in the table, one point less than Delhi, who have played all their league matches.
Mumbai, which plays Jaipur later in the day, is the other team that is competing with these two sides for a semifinal berth. It has 12 points.
If Chennai win on Tuesday, they go one point up on Delhi and will qualify for the semis. But if they lose against Hyderabad, they will have to hope and pray that Mumbai lose both their games.
On Monday, Chennai coach Kepler Wessels said that though there would be pressure on his team, it would not be different than that during any other match.
"We have been in this situation before," he said on the eve of their match against Hyderabad.
“When the IPL began, every match was a must-win because we wanted to establish the lead and then, in the second leg, we wanted to win every game because the competition for the semifinal was building up,” he said.
Though they lost to Jaipur on Saturday, Chennai put up a good show with their batsmen coming good, almost chasing down a mammoth 212. And their batting order finally seems to be settling down, with the in-form Suresh Raina coming in at number three. Dhoni, Albie Morkel and S Badrinath follow him.
“There will be no change in the team which played the last match,” said Wessels. Monday saw heavy clouds gather over the city and the possibility of rain affecting the game cannot be ruled out.
If Tuesday's match is rained out then Chennai will get one point and will be on par with Delhi. And they would go through if Mumbai lose one of their games.
But if there is no rain, Chennai have to defeat Hyderabad to whom they lost their home match in the league.
“Hyderabad is a dangerous side,” Wessels said. “They have a good line-up and on a given day they can defeat any team.”
And Chennai would be hoping Tuesday is not that day.
Odds: Hyderabad-7/9, Chennai-4/5