New Delhi: Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, CLT20 trophy: Dravid making his last competitive appearance on the cricket field, Tendulkar playing his last T20, Mumbai Indians eyeing a double. The bullet points for a domestic T20 title-clash can’t be more illustrious.
Dravid’s Rajasthan Royals will take on Tendulkar-inspired Mumbai in the final of the Champions League Twenty20 here at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium on Sunday, with the match being billed as the last chance to see two legends on the field together, albeit in different camps.
It’s been a contrasting journey to the final for the two teams. While Rajasthan were in cruise control, Mumbai had to do damage control. Rajasthan entered the final winning all their five matches; Mumbai had to bring out their A+ game in the last group game to reach the semis.
Besides Mumbai and Rajasthan, Chennai Super Kings was the third IPL team to make it to the last-four stage. But they couldn’t breach the Sawai Mansingh stadium fortress, where Rajasthan have now won 13 consecutive games. Mumbai, though, didn’t face much problem in brushing aside Trinidad & Tobago. That’s how the dream date got set up.
But Dravid’s army won’t be at home this time and playing in Delhi for the first time in the tournament, whereas Mumbai have already played and won two games here and will understandably feel more confident and acclimatized to the Kotla track.
Both the squads are settled units but with contrasting characteristics. Mumbai rely on their star power and Rajasthan on their workman-like approach, grinding out wins with the grit of little-known players. But on Sunday, Dravid will have to change his team’s composition with Brad Hodge ruled out following a collision injury the Australian suffered in the semi-final.
Kusal Perera and Sachin Baby are available, so is left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh. Decision is left to Dravid, whether he wants a batsman for batsman or wants to beef up the spin department against the formidable Mumbai line-up.
Dravid has had a poor tournament by his standards, scoring just 45 runs in five outings. In that light, the loss of experienced Hodge could hurt more and warrants a special innings from the Indian legend in his last match. But Ajinkya Rahane has batted like a dream, second only to Shikhar Dhawan on the runs chart and scoring three back-to-back fifties.
Watson too has had a quiet tournament so far, but a big-match player like him can never be written off, especially with his capability to demolish any attack. Royals have slotted him down the order this tournament, which could be the case in the final as well with Hodge out.
Rajasthan’s inexperienced bowlers have performed appreciably in the tournament. Rahul Shukla has been deceptive with his pace while the 41-year-old leggie Pravin Tambe has been the surprise package with his 10 wickets. James Faulkner has stuck to his task, so has Kevon Cooper with his variation – with Watson performing the support role.
For Mumbai, this will be there second appearance in the final after they won the trophy in 2011. Tendulkar was in the dug out last time, watching Harbhajan Singh lead the team to a win. This time the legend can contribute, and he will be hungry to do that, showing it in the 35 runs he scored in a 90-run opening stand in the semi-final to return to form.
Skipper Rohit Sharma and opener Dwayne Smith have been Mumbai’s chief contributors with the bat and will remain central to the team’s fortunes on Sunday. Dinesh Karthik too looked to have regained his touch in the semis, which will be a relief for the team that has big-hitting Kieron Pollard down the order.
Among bowlers, Mitchell Johnson returned to the eleven in the semi-final, replacing countrymen Glenn Maxwell; however, he remained unimpressive in an expensive three-over spell of 1 for 31. But considering his experience, the left-arm pacer should retain his place for the big match. Nathan Coulter-Nile continues to impress and will be Rohit’s chief wicket-taking hope in the final. The spin duo of Harbhajan and Pragyan Ojha remain a threat on the Kotla track, with Pollard and Rishi Dhawan rolling their arms over more than usefully.
The match will mark the 15th meeting between the two IPL rivals, with not much between them. Mumbai hold a negligible 7-6 edge. The winners get richer by $2,500,000 while the runners-up take home $1,300,000.
Mumbai Indians: 1 Dwayne Smith, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Ambati Rayudu, 4 Rohit Sharma (capt), 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Mitchell Johnson, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Rishi Dhawan, 11 Pragyan Ojha
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Rahul Dravid (capt), 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Sanju Samson (wk), 4 Shane Watson, 5 Stuart Binny, 6 Kusal Perera / Sachin Baby, 7 Dishant Yagnik (wk), 8 Kevon Cooper, 9 James Faulkner, 10 Rahul Shukla, 11 Pravin Tambe