Chennai Super Kings' fans did heave a sigh of relief when MS Dhoni's men bounced back strongly to tame Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday evening at the Chepauk-esque Dubai track. But in less than five hours, the fate of CSK, who were still hanging on a thread after the RCB win, was decided. Rajasthan Royals' inspiring win against defending champions Mumbai Indians at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on late Sunday evening while ensured that they were well alive in the race to the playoffs, CSK became the first team to be officially eliminated.
Chennai, the three-time IPL winners, did incur a poor season in the UAE, winning only four of their 12 games so far to stand at the bottom of the points table.
Chennai were all but out at the start of this week, following their eighth defeat that came against Rajasthan Royals. They needed to win their remaining four to stay mathematically alive, hoping that others factors fall in place. But a humiliation in the next game, against Mumbai, left them with little to expect.
Chennai, yet, were alive, with an even bleak possibility. And they eventually arrested their downfall with a thumping eight-wicket win in Dubai where the bowlers managed to restrict the daunting RCB batting lineup to 145 for six before Ruturaj Gaikwad's maiden IPL fifty handed them their fourth win this season. But the Royals' win against Mumbai in Abu Dhabi, denied them any other hope. This will be the first time that Chennai will not reach an IPL playoff stage. It is a feat they achieved in each of their 10 IPL appearances.
"It does hurt when you don't do well so you try to amplify certain emotions. So that the guys just don't drop the game. That can leave with 12 painful hours of the remaining time in the tournament. You have to enjoy the game no matter where you are on the table," Dhoni said during the post-match presentation.
The last two games could well be inconsequential but the CSK skipper wants his men to just go out there and enjoy.
"If you are not enjoying the cricket, it can become cruel and painful. So I am glad with how the youngsters have responded."
CSK still have two more games left in IPL 2020 where they play Kolkata Knight Riders and the Kings XI Punjab.