The thirteenth edition of the IPL is all set to begin with the blockbuster MI vs CSK game. Mumbai Indians, the defending champions, are on paper one of the strongest sides with all bases covered while Chennai Super Kings, the runner-ups of 2019, will be going into the tournament after a series of setbacks. MI being the only side to have a win-loss ratio greater than 0.5 against CSK and with a well-balanced squad, start as favorites in he opening game. However, it is never wise to write off CSK no matter how weak they seem on paper.

A blockbuster of a contest awaits as the two IPL heavyweights take on each other. With all the hype around the rivalry, we look at some of the key matchups for the game based on data from the last 3 seasons:

The Bumrah Factor:

If there is one bowler who single-handedly chokes CSK, it has to be Jasprit Bumrah. No CSK batsman has been able to get the better off Bumrah in the last 3 seasons,except for the Bravo onslaught in the penultimate over in the 2018 opening game.

BatsmanBalls FacedRuns ScoredDismissalsStrike Rate
Shane Watson2118185.71
MS Dhoni4239292.26
Ambati Rayudu1511173.33
Dwayne Bravo18322177.78
Kedar Jadhav33350106.06
Ravindra Jadeja9110122.22

Bumrah will hold the key for MI against CSK and will be the go-to bowler for his skipper. CSK must find a way to counter-attack him, or else look to play him out without losing any wicket.

One thing can be assured, if Bumrah doesn’t get MI breakthroughs, CSK will be way ahead. With Malinga absent, MI’s death bowling burden is totally on Bumrah, given none of the other pacers has good enough numbers at the death.

[Also read – IPL 2020: Chennai Super Kings Batting Analysis]

Boult at the Death is CSK’s Merry:

Trent Boult is one of the only bowlers from the current MI setup who does not have a decent record against the current CSK batsmen. Boult has 2 wickets from 96 balls against the five major batsmen who have faced him while conceding 132 runs at an economy of 8.25. However, against the regular openers, Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson, Boult has been very economical, maintaining an economy of 4.32. Against Dhoni, Rayudu and Jadeja, who bat mostly in middle and death overs, Boult has an economy of 12.52 and a strike rate of 46. Boult should definitely not be used in the death overs against CSK if the likes of Dhoni (who scores at a strike rate of 256 against Boult) remain at the crease.

Economy RateBowling Strike Rate
vs Openers (Watson and Du Plessis)4.3250.00
vs Others (Dhoni, Rayudu and jadeja)12.5246.00

Rahul and Krunal’s Strangle in the Middle Overs:

Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya have economy of 4.50 and 6.28 respectively against major CSK batsmen, with Krunal picking a wicket every 15 balls, Chahar does it every 36 balls. Except for Du Plessis and Watson (who hammered Krunal at the death in 2019 final), no CSK batsman has a strike rate above 100 against Krunal. Dhoni, Jadhav and Rayudu have particularly struggled to get going against Rahul, with Dhoni scoring just 7 off 17 balls from him. In Krunal and Rahul, MI have the perfect weapon not only to choke CSK in the middle overs but also to get the key wickets.

BowlerEconomy RateBowling Strike Rate
Krunal Pandya6.2815.14
Rahul Chahar4.5036.00

However, Rahul Chahar was used as a defensive option last season and if that continues, CSK will just be happy to play him out and wait for the pacers at the death.

Watson’s Struggles against MI Pacers:

Shane Watson is someone who if not dismissed in the initial stages, can take the game away in no time like he almost did in the 2019 final. Watson has been one of the best batsmen in the middle overs since 2018, having a near-50 average and a 180-plus strike rate. This proves how crucial it is for the opposition to get Watson early, and Mumbai have got just the right pace attack for the job.

vs MI pacersStrike RateAverage
Shane Watson83.5225.33

Against the 5 Mumbai pacers Watson has faced since 2017 (Bumrah, Boult, McClenaghan, Hardik Pandya and Dhawal Kulkarni), Watson has a strike rate of 83.52 and an average of 25.33. Out of the 5 bowlers, except Hardik, all others bowl in the powerplays and Watson will need to do really well to survive the initial phase.

CSK’s Death Bowling Woes:

Against the 5 designated death bowlers for CSK (Deepak, Shardul, Bravo, Ngidi and Curran), MI batsmen have scored at 8.89 runs per over at an average of 42.31. The CSK pacers have picked just 13 wickets in 62 overs out of which Deepak Chahar alone has 6 wickets at an average of 31.33.

Moreover, CSK concede 10.40 runs per over against MI at the death (the most against any opposition), which is 0.71 more than they concede against others. Also, MI lose a wicket for every 48.83 runs against CSK at the death, which is 27.44 runs more than any other team against CSK.

Runs per OverRuns per Wicket
vs Mumbai Indians10.4048.83
vs Other9.7121.39

For CSK to get the better off MI, the first step has to be bettering their death bowling. Having bowled better against MI than against most teams in powerplays and middle overs, CSK have often lost the plot in death overs and yet again the final 5 overs of CSK’s bowling will be one of the key deciding factors on the outcome.

And this is the reason they need Lungi Ngidi in the XI against Mumbai, even if it comes at the cost of sacrificing a batsman, most likely Faf du Plessis. Ngidi in 2018 bowled 10 overs at the death and maintained an economy of 7, while picking up 4 wickets.

[Also read – IPL 2020: Mumbai Indians Batting Analysis]

Spin it Away from Hardik:

One of the most destructive batsmen in the formidable MI lineup, Hardik Pandya ahs time and again proved to be flesh in the bone for CSK. Hardik just loves CSK’s death bowling, scoring at a strike rate of 188.09 against the designated death bowlers. However, he has not been able to score freely against the bowlers who turn it away from him, except against Chawla (who was earlier in KKR) against who he has scored at a strike rate of 280.00. In the last 3 years, Hardik has been dismissed only once by a current CSK bowler; by Deepak Chahar in the 2019 final.

Strike Rate
vs Spinners (Tahir, Jadeja and Santner)72.41
vs Pacers (Shardul, Deepak and Bravo)188.09

CSK’s best bet will be to bowl Tahir against Hardik and MI will want to hold Hardik back till Tahir completes his quota. Don’t be surprised if Tahir bowls one over at the death, probably the 16-17th over. CSK would do well if they can force MI to send Hardik before the 15th over.

Overall, the odds are heavily against Chennai and Mumbai start as clear favorites. But CSK under Dhoni are a team who can never be judged based on stats, thanks to the experience and expertise they have, any one of them can turn the game on its head. Between the two tactical maestros, one making full use of all the data and analytics while the other believing on his instincts, it will be a case of who blinks first.