2019 IPL Final – Mumbai v Chennai. Pic: IPLT20.COM
Former Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has equated the Mumbai Indians (MI) versus Chennai Super Kings (CSK) battle in the IPL to the India-Pakistan rivalry in international cricket. The 41-year-old, who represented both franchises in the T20 league, admitted that players as well as fans find the duel very exciting.
MI and CSK will resume their rivalry when they face-off in the 33rd match of IPL 2022 at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Thursday.
Sharing his thoughts on IPL’s “El Clasico”, Harbhajan said on Sportskeeda’s special show SK Match Ki Baat:
“This match was like India vs Pakistan in terms of rivalry. This was a big match for players and also in terms of fan following.”
He conceded that the past rivalry might not have much relevance this season considering both teams are nowhere near as strong. While Mumbai are 10th in the standings, Chennai are ninth. Harbhajan explained:
“How relevant it (the rivalry) is this season, I am not sure, because there have been lot of changes in the teams. The franchises that were in the top two are now in bottom two.”
While CSK have managed to win one of their six IPL 2022 matches, MI are winless, losing six in six. Opening up about his views on Mumbai’s struggles, he opined that they are suffering because of their thin bowling, which is heavily dependent on Jasprit Bumrah. He stated:
“You cannot win a tournament with one champion bowler, you can win some games. But, if the bowling is not strong from both ends, winning is difficult. Jasprit Bumrah is also feeling the pressure as there is no Lasith Malinga or Trent Boult at the other end. Bumrah is thus trying extra hard and in that process he is also going for a few.”
The 28-year-old pace spearhead has managed to pick up only four wickets in six matches at an average of 42.25 and an economy rate of 7.57.
“I was surprised that MI let Rahul Chahar go” – Harbhajan Singh
Apart from a lack of wicket-taking pacers, Mumbai are struggling in the spin department as well. In that context, Harbhajan feels the franchise erred by not retaining leg-spinner Rahul Chahar. Speaking about the young spinner, he said:
“I was surprised that MI let Rahul Chahar go. Rohit Sharma had a big role to play in his growth as a bowler. Chahar was always given attacking fields by the captain when he bowled for Mumbai and picked up wickets in the powerplay as well. Murugan Ashwin can bowl leg-spin and the googly, but he doesn’t seem to have the confidence.”
Chahar claimed 13 wickets for Mumbai in 11 matches during the IPL 2021 edition at an average of 24.46 and an economy rate of 7.39. He was purchased by Punjab Kings (PKBS) for ₹5.25 crore at the auction in February. He has claimed 10 wickets in seven matches for his new franchise in the ongoing edition.