Pune, April 30 -- One look at the points table of the Indian T20 league and you could say normalcy has been restored. Two-time winners Chennai Super Kings have brushed aside some early problems to emerge the table toppers while Pune Warriors have sunk to the bottom.
On current form, Sunday's clash could simply reaffirm the status of the two teams. It also underlines how far MS Dhoni's team have travelled since the Warriors tripped them up in their den, notching up one of only two wins in nine matches.
However, the points don't reveal much. While CSK achieved hard-fought victories, the Warriors squandered their chances repeatedly.
Holding one's nerve in the death is the key in T20s, and that has been the differentiating factor between these two teams as they face-off at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
CSK managed to pull it off against Kolkata Knight Riders (at Eden Gardens, Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad when the odds were tilted in the opponent's favour. With a bit of fortune, they also defeated Royal Challengers Bangalore at home, RP Singh's giant over-stepping for that last ball no-ball that sealed the game.
But the story in the Pune camp would have been different had they managed to hold on to good starts. After dismissing Sunrisers Hyderabad for 126 in their opening game, the side collapsed for 104. It was a similar story in the repeat game against the Hyderabad side, Kings XI Punjab (at Mohali) and against Delhi Daredevils in Raipur on Sunday.
At the league's mid-way mark, CSK are again favourites to go the distance. While Pune have slumped to defeats after that big win in Chennai, CSK have settled down.
Mike Hussey, basking in his post-retirement success, has been the pivot in the team's plans with an aggregate of 445 runs so far. His innings have given the middle-order the platform to finish things off.
The team has also benefitted from the collective efforts of Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, R Ashwin, Chris Morris and skipper Dhoni.
While Dhoni's influence has been immense for CSK, the lack of an inspirational leader has hurt Pune Warriors.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.