2017 — Before the final:
Rising Pune Supergiant 3, Mumbai Indians 0
In the final: MI beat RPS for their third title.
2018 — Before the final:
Chennai Super Kings 3, Sunrisers Hyderabad 0
In the final: CSK beat SRH for their third title.
2019 — Before the final:
Mumbai Indians 3, Chennai Super Kings 0
Who will become the first side to win four IPL titles on Sunday (May 12)?
That's the short story of the IPL final to be played in Hyderabad. The two best sides of the tournament - in this season and over the 12 years - will clash for bragging rights as the most successful franchise. Two familiar foes. Two arch rivals in IPL. In fact, the only rivalry in IPL.
There are often no clear favourites when these two sides clash, but the scenario is different this year. Mumbai will go in as firm favourites, given they've beaten Chennai convincingly each time they've met this season. It includes two clashes at Chepauk, where CSK haven't lost to any other team this season.
In fact, MI have the edge over CSK in their past clashes in IPL finals too. CSK beat MI the first time these two sides met in a final, in 2010, but MI got the better of MS Dhoni's men the next two times, in 2013 and 2015.
CSK have been in finals seven times before this season, and lost four of them. There's a joke that does rounds around this time of the year, that goes 'IPL is a tournament where seven teams play to meet CSK in the final'. If CSK lose Sunday's game, that could well become 'IPL is a tournament where seven teams participate and MI beat CSK in the final'.
Yet, no one in their right minds would count out CSK. Many dismissed their chances after the player auction last year, but CSK surprised them all with a comfortable run to the title. Things were supposed to get difficult this year given their average age has only increased, but here they are in the final yet again. Eight finals in ten seasons is a staggering achievement. This year, they've got there despite not being at their best.
CSK took the longer route to the final - or 'around the wicket', as Dhoni called it - having lost the first qualifier to MI. Their convincing victory over Delhi Capitals in the second qualifier, though, should give them hope. Their batting has been a worry through the season - barring Dhoni - but that came good on Friday with Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis firing. They'll want more of that, much more of that, if they are to get past a side like MI.
Rohit Sharma's men are the most balanced team this season. They have in form openers, a solid top order, and a super-powerful lower order. They've got bowlers for every pitch and opposition. They've got back ups and surprise options, for every department. This is as strong an IPL side can get.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Shane Watson: Watson has terribly out of form throughout the season, but CSK kept backing him. He returned the favour in the second qualifier, smashing a quick 50 against Delhi. He will have fond memories of IPL finals - his century in a chase against SRH propelled CSK to victory last year. Can he do it again?
Hardik Pandya: 386 runs from 14 innings at strike-rate of 193. 14 wickets at a strike-rate of 17.79. Hardik's form has been the reason for MI's rise this year. His hitting form has simply been unbelievable, and once again crucial in the final.
CSK: They made a surprise change by bringing in Shardul Thakur for M Vijay against Delhi Capitals. Thakur just bowled one expensive over, but expect Dhoni to stick with him.
MI: They are unlikely to change their combination, given it helped them beat CSK in Chennai.
CSK: Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (c/wk), Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Harbhajan Singh, Imran Tahir.
MI: Rohit Sharma (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Jayant Yadav, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Lasith Malinga
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First Published: May 12, 2019, 7:57 AM IST