5 things to look out for in IPL final between Chennai and Mumbai
The big day is here. Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rohit Sharma's Mumbai Indians (MI) will fight it out for the prized IPL crown at Kolkata's Eden Gardens in front of a large crowd on Sunday night.
For the two teams, the road to the final was quite contrasting. Mumbai had a disastrous start to their campaign as they lost their first four matches. But just when things looked bleak, the team bounced back with some panache as it won seven of its last nine group games to make it to the title round. They took along the momentum to the Wankhede Stadium - their home turf, where they beat CSK by 25 runs in the Qualifier 1 and booked a place in the ultimate showdown.
Chennai, on the other hand, had a consistent season as they finished atop the league table with 18 points from 14 games. But the heavyweights had a slip up enroute to the final, at the Wankhede, but recovered with a very clinical performance against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) on Friday night as they outdid Virat Kohli's side by three wickets in Ranchi.
Before the high-voltage match, here are five things to watch out for:
Clash of the titans
While CSK have won the IPL title twice, MI have clinched it once - two years ago. Both teams have tasted success in the cash-rich tournament and know how to tackle pressure. In the grand finale, all eyes will be on how they keep their cool in the battle of nerves.
Considering the head-to-head battles, it is difficult to differentiate between the two franchises, with Mumbai having clinched 11 games to CSK's 10. Thus a battle of the titans awaits the fans and supporters at Eden, as the two sides unleash their full fury to clinch the trophy on a wicket that has fulfilled expectations in this tournament.
When the two teams fight it out at Eden, the spotlight will be on four players from the Caribbean islands.
Lendl Simmons, who carved a brilliant 51-ball 65 in the Qualifier 1 for Mumbai, will add thunder to Mumbai's batting. Kieron Pollard also played an important role in MI's comprehensive win over CSK earlier this month that paved the way for their entry into the final of IPL 8.
On the other hand, Chennai have in their arsenal the likes of Dwayne Smith, who will open their batting, and Dwayne Bravo, one of the most successful all-rounders in the tournament. Bravo is also the leading wicket-taker this season with 24 victims from 15 matches. Plus, he can turn the match with his batting skills at the death.
It's always fascinating to watch Dhoni marshalling his troops on the field. The India captain, who has T20 World Cup and ODI World Cup feathers in his crown, has led the team from the front this time as well.
So much so that CSK's star batsman star Suresh Raina said that CSK's stupendous success as the most consistent team in the eight editions of the IPL should be attributed to their skipper Dhoni's leadership skills. "MS is the most consistent captain (in the game) that we have. That's why we are in the final six times from eight appearances," Raina told reporters on the eve of the final.
"When you're taking on MI, you have to really play very good cricket. We still remember the loss against them in the 2103 final," Raina said.
Another fascinating thing would be how the big-hitting Rohit, Dhoni's Team India colleague, tries to checkmate his captain.
Star gazing and VVIPs
When it's about IPL, how can glamour go missing? Several Bollywood stars including Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma and other members of the cast and crew of upcoming Bollywood movie "Dil Dhadakne Do" are expected to attend the final match at the Eden Gardens.
Plus, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, governor KN Tripathi and cricket officials from Australia, South Africa, England and Sri Lanka are also likely to attend the match.
Will the bowlers come up trumps?
Big-hitters such Faf Du Plessis, Dhoni and Smith (all CSK), and Pollard, Rohit and Simmons (MI) will be there. Of course, there will be those wild slogs. But spinners such as Ravichandran Ashwin (CSK) and comeback kid Harbhajan Singh seem to be on a roll. It will be a delight to watch the two spinning it out in the cricket field. And why forget the vintage seamer Ashish Nehra (CSK) and the ‘slinger’ Lasith Malinga's (MI)? If they get going, it will be bad luck for fans who are expecting a high-scoring game.