Venue: Dubai International Stadium
Date: Friday, April 25
Start time: 3:30 p.m. BST/6:30 p.m. local/8:00 p.m. IST
Weather: The Weather Channel is predicting a pleasant and clear evening in Dubai with the temperature expected to be at a minimum of 24 degrees Celsius, along with a humidity of 58 percent.
It's the clash of last season's finalists in the Indian Premier League on Friday evening at the Dubai International Stadium as the Chennai Super Kings take on defending champions Mumbai Indians. However, the two heavyweight teams of the IPL have been at the opposite ends of the spectrum of form so far this season.
Five-time finalists Chennai were shocked in their season opener by the whirlwind force that was Glenn Maxwell as they failed to defend 205. However, the MS Dhoni-led team fought back admirably in their following two matches and recorded comfortable wins against the Delhi Daredevils and the Rajasthan Royals.
Mumbai, on the other hand, have suffered two morale-breaking defeats in as many matches by rather large margins of 41 runs and seven wickets against Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore, respectively. Mumbai's batting has been their main offender with their star-studded line-up failing to score more than 122 runs in their two outings so far.
Mumbai might consider making a change or two in their batting line-up. Although it is evident that captain Rohit Sharma prefers batting at No. 4, he will have to realise that he needs to face more deliveries, being one of their strongest cards.
Unfortunately, Mumbai no longer have the stability of Dinesh Karthik coming in at No. 3, who had such a good run last season. It's up to Sharma to take up the mantle and push himself up the order.
Mumbai might also consider slotting Kieron Pollard at No. 4 with Ambati Rayudu and Corey Anderson to follow.
Mumbai's openers, meanwhile, have their own issues to sort out. Mumbai have swapped their opener from last season, Dwayne Smith, with Chennai's Michael Hussey. Considering the games played so far, it would seem that Mumbai got themselves the wrong end of the deal.
However, it would be foolish to discredit Hussey, who was last season's Orange Cap holder. Players like him are only one good knock away from getting back in form.
Mumbai's other opener, Aditya Tare, has perhaps got another couple of games to prove that he belongs in the playing XI. Tare has managed the 20-odd run start, but he hasn't been able to convert that into the 40s and 50s. If Tare does not step up his game, he could end up losing his spot to the other experienced wicketkeeper-batsman in the squad, CM Gautam.
Mumbai's batting is as shallow as a puddle; it ends with Anderson at No. 6 with Harbhajan Singh not really being the same player as before. However, the top six batsmen possess enough firepower to turn Mumbai's season around.
Chennai, meanwhile, have been picture perfect after their loss to Punjab. They have looked the best all-round team in the tournament so far with all three departments gelling and teaming up wonderfully.
Chennai possess arguably the most envious batting line-up of all, which has posted totals in excess of 170 twice already in three games. The one time they failed to do so, against the Rajasthan Royals, their bowling and fielding professionally stepped up and defended 140.
It would take some performance from Mumbai to repeat their success over Chennai, who appear to have profited after losing Dwayne Bravo to injury. Their combination over the last two matches has looked really good with Ishwar Pandey and Ben Hilfenhaus coming in for Ashish Nehra and Pawan Negi in the bowling, while Mithun Manhas has filled in for Bravo in the middle-order.
Chennai Super Kings
MS Dhoni (c/wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Mohit Sharma, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ashish Nehra, Samuel Badree, Matt Henry, Mithun Manhas, Baba Aparajith, Ishwar Pandey, Vijay Shankar, Pawan Negi, Ronit More, John Hastings.
Rohit Sharma(c), Lasith Malinga, Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, Michael Hussey, Corey Anderson, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Aditya Tare(wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Jalaj Saxena, Josh Hazlewood, Marchant de Lange, Krishmar Santokie, Ben Dunk, CM Gautam(wk), Apporv Wankhade, Pawan Suyal, Sushant Marathe, Shreyas Gopal.
Players to Watch
It would be difficult to keep Hussey and Pollard quiet for too long, so Chennai would be wary of their threat going into the game. Hussey, of course, would be well aware of Chennai's strengths and weaknesses, having played for them for six seasons before the recent switch. The match would provide an ideal platform for the Australian to capitalise and get back in form.
Chennai, meanwhile, have so many performers that it becomes quite a task picking one or two.
Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith and Faf du Plessis have already wowed the crowds this season. Smith would be all too eager to show up again against his former team. Pandey and Sharma, meanwhile, have been the silent performers in the bowling and you can never rule out a breakout performance from either of the two.
Chennai seem too strong for this Mumbai team, who haven't done the best of business in the player auction. It would require a thorough all-round performance from Mumbai to get the better of CSK, and that appears unlikely judging from the last couple of games. Chennai are likely to coast to a win.