KOLKATA — Two-time winners Chennai Super Kings will battle Mumbai Indians for the top prize today in the Indian Premier League final game on Sunday. Both teams have played each other thrice in previous finals, with CSK having the better winning record. This year, both teams took totally different routes to make it to the final.
Mumbai had a disastrous start to their campaign as they lost all of their first four matches. But just when things looked bleak for the Rohit Sharma-led outfit, 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 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 they slipped enroute to the final, at the Wankhede. However, they recovered in the crunch game, 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.
PITCH AND KEY PLAYERS
A battle of the titans await the fans and supporters at Eden on Sunday as each side unleash their full repertoire to clinch the trophy on a wicket that has fulfilled expectations this tournament. "It is a different wicket than last year, you want to see a good battle between bat and ball and that is what is happening... very pleased with the pitch," Kohli had said after an earlier game.
However, Eden's pitch curator Prabir Mukherjee refrained from commenting on the fresh strip that will host the two teams, saying, "You will have to decide for yourself whether it is a sporting wicket when the final starts on Sunday."
The strip may, however, be witness to a Caribbean calypso as both sides boast of a top order having swashbuckling willowers from the West Indies. While it will be Lendl Simmons — who carved a brilliant 51-ball 65 in Qualifier 1 — for Mumbai, Dwayne Smith will open the batting for CSK. The Caribbean flavours continue as all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard don the yellow and blue jerseys respectively. Bravo is also the leading wicket-taker this season with 24 victims from 15 innings. The other big guns who can step up to make a difference in the big game can be the two skippers, namely Rohit Sharma for MI, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the Super Kings. For Sharma, it has been personally one of the most happy hunting grounds as in the opening game this season he had scored a blistering 98 not out against KKR.
With the ball, both side possess an formidable weaponry, with the likes of Lasith Malinga (MI) and Ashish Nehra (CSK) marshalling the respective departments. And they sure know how to turn things around in a pressure situation. Will it be the big guns who will make a difference or will the likes of Pawan Negi and Hardik Pandya deliver the goods and become an unlikely hero? Whichever way it turns out, the match promises to be exciting.
TICKETS SOLD OUT
It will be a sellout crowd at the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata. The famed cricket venue, that hosted the 1987 World Cup final, now has a 66,000 plus seating capacity, almost half of what it used to be. According to sources, tickets kept for online purchase were sold out within hours. The tickets kept for box office sale from the Mohammedan Sporting ground also disappeared in no time.
The counter was closed on Friday and Saturday as cricket fans thronged the ground in search of a valid pass to witness the final. Friday also witnessed police arresting the blackmarketers who were selling the tickets at almost double their prices to the supporters.
There were earlier speculations that the ground would not be packed to capacity as the home team Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) had crashed out of the tournament. However, the Cricket Association of Bengal officials had then seemed confident of a houseful Eden.
"Yes, KKR may have crashed out, but it is the final and the demand for tickets was huge," CAB treasurer Biswaroop Dey said. With tickets sold out and fans travelling to the city from all across the country, Eden on Sunday awaits an extravaganza that concludes one and a half months of relentless T20 cricket.