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Cricket news - IPL heavyweights brace for early-season bout

CSK have a 3-5 record against Mumbai Indians in IPL matches at the Wankhede Stadium.

Landscape gazing from an aeroplane window in India can make for an interesting exercise, because the topography of each city has a story of its own to tell. Mumbai Indians will have left Mohali wondering why they don't replicate the consistency of Chandigarh's well-structured, symmetric panorama in their own performances at the start of an IPL season. Three games in, they have chosen once again to mirror the chaotic visual that is their home city. One aesthetic high-rise packed between two dingy apartments with peeling plasters.

It is too early for panic stations, but a third defeat in four games could nudge Rohit Sharma & Co. just there. The timing of CSK's visit, therefore, is opportune, for nothing fuels the drive for excellence in Mumbai Indians as much as the sight of excellence itself. Michael Hussey, who has donned both yellow and blue in this contest, subscribes to this theory in big games. It perhaps offers some explanation for Mumbai's head-to-head advantage over their fellow three-time champions (13-11), who enjoy a winning record against the rest of the league.

But, for Mumbai to shrug off their indifferent start, it will be imperative for them to nip a developing middle-order problem in the bud. A trio of Suryakumar Yadav, Kieron Pollard and Yuvraj Singh has struggled to sustain the tempo of a fast start through the middle phase of the innings, leaving Hardik Pandya to do much of the heavy-lifting at the death. It is this very middle-overs battle that MS Dhoni succeeded in winning against Delhi Capitals and Rajasthan Royals.

In comparison, CSK only have a couple of minor issues - the form of Ambati Rayudu, and death bowling - to address, but their customary fast start to the season of three wins in three, keeps them relatively pressure-free heading into this contest. It would be unwise to expect them to take a foot off the pedal at Wankhede, where they won three emotionally-charged games and a third IPL crown last season. More so when two points against an early-season Mumbai could be there for the taking - two points that'll put them one step closer to maintaining their proud playoffs record.

When: Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings, April 3, 20:00 IST

Where: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

What to expect: A slug fest on a batting beauty. It's not a kind of game the Super Kings have played so far this season and thus will be eager to test their batting prowess. On such a pitch, spinners could be momentarily forced to contemplate their choice of a vocation, and the team batting first will constantly recalibrate a par score to account for the dew allowance.

Team News:

Mumbai Indians

There are grounds to bring in both Ishan Kishan and Ben Cutting into the line-up, although this youth over experience logic is just what their opponents furrow their brows at. Mitchell McClenaghan, a reliable operator for the franchise in the past, hasn't had the best of starts so far and could make way for Australian quick Jason Behrendorff, who has joined the squad after his national team commitments.

Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Yuvraj Singh/Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard/Ben Cutting, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Mayank Markande, Jason Behrendorff/Mitchell McClenaghan, Jasprit Bumrah, Lasith Malinga

Chennai Super Kings

A game for Faf du Plessis, who batted the longest on the eve of the game, is a possibility and could move Rayudu to the comforts of the middle order in a role he had much success as a Mumbai Indians player. Alternatively, CSK might also revert to fielding only three foriegn players if they desire an extra seamer and death bowling option in Mohit Sharma if they don't see value in playing Mitchell Santner in another dewy game.

Probable XI: Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (c&wk), Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Mitchell Santner/Mohit Sharma, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir

Did you know?

- A victory for Mumbai Indians will make them the first side to win 100 matches (including SuperOvers)

- CSK have a 3-5 record against Mumbai Indians in IPL matches at the Wankhede Stadium

- There is no discernible advantage of chasing here with teams batting first winning exactly 5 of the last 10 games.

What they said:

"I thought the last innings he [MS Dhoni] played was one of the good ones and I've seen many. His composure and his skill at the end of an innings is the dominating factor between teams" - Stephen Fleming

"Obviously, I think in T20 you always want from your top-3 batsmen, at least one of them batting through the middle overs. The beauty of our batting order is that we don't have to rely on one batsman." - Quinton de Kock

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