Chennai Super Kings’ batting woes have continued for a second successive match, as the side failed to chase down the 176-run target against the Delhi Capitals. The CSK were restricted to 131/5 in 20 overs, largely owing to outstanding bowling performance from the Capitals, complemented with good captaincy from youngster Shreyas Iyer. However, a target of 176 runs is not beyond reach for the CSK batting order which boasts of the likes of Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, among others who can ably fulfill the filler roles.
So, what’s going wrong with CSK, exactly?
It is no surprise that Chennai Super Kings have been missing Suresh Raina in their batting order. The southpaw has been a backbone to the side’s batting ever since the inaugural edition of the tournament – he is not nicknamed ‘Mr IPL’ for no reason, after all. But even as one of their key players goes missing, one would still expect a group of highly experienced players to have a game plan when it comes to chasing down scores, right? Their batting approach simply looks aimless at the moment.
In their match against Rajasthan Royals, where the CSK were chasing a mammoth total of 217, the side had put on only 36 runs in the first five overs of the match. A lot was said about MS Dhoni’s batting position as he came at number seven in the big run-chase. When he arrived at the crease, CSK needed 103 runs in 38 deliveries. For a batsman who has often preferred to bide time on the crease before going for big hits in the past few years, this was hardly an ideal scenario. Justifiably, Dhoni’s singles and doubles were hardly of any help and before he could launch the ball into space, the match was already lost.
Even as the target lowered significantly in the next game against Delhi Capitals (176), CSK baffled the fans with their strange tactics again. In their previous two games, the team management preferred to pin hopes on Sam Curran to up the ante when the required run-rate towered up. Against Mumbai Indians in the opening match, Curran played a match-winning knock of 18 runs in six deliveries; in the next match against the Royals, he was promoted to number four with similar intentions, and he scored 17 in six balls.
Yesterday, Curran only arrived at the crease when CSK required 46 runs – in three deliveries! When the target looked far more achievable than the one against Royals, why was Curran not promoted again?
The Super Kings were reeling at 44/3 in 9.1 overs, having lost both the openers and Ruturaj Gaikwad. Clearly, the need of the hour was to bring some parity between the current and required run-rate. With 35 runs in 12 deliveries across both the games for Curran with the bat, there was no reason why CSK couldn’t have taken the gamble here. Instead, MS Dhoni arrived at the crease when the side required 77 runs to win in 26 deliveries. A similar situation at Dhoni’s arrival – with the side’s only in-form player Faf du Plessis struggling to score, could’ve only meant one thing – CSK fell short again.
What can CSK do?
Settle down on tactics, for starters. Dhoni received praise for sending Curran up in the batting order in the first match, but it has all gone downhill since the opening game. Stephen Fleming had admitted in the post-match press conference that the management needs to find the right combination. The six-day rest before their next match, hence, comes as a blessing for the side.
The opening combination has failed to step up so far. Murali Vijay, in particular, has been struggling woefully over the last three matches. The batsman has scored 32 runs in 43 deliveries in this tournament so far. Against Delhi Capitals, he scored 10 runs in 15 balls, failing to middle most of them, beaten twice, and opting to leave another two. CSK cannot afford such nervy starts if they want to chase big scores. The good news for CSK is that Ambati Rayudu may come back for the next match.
So, the side can either promote Rayudu as an opener, or opt for Gaikwad (who is a natural opener) to partner with Watson. The veteran Australian batsman has had his share of struggles too, but CSK has a history of backing him and Watson, too, has the history of repaying faith. The only difference here, is that Watson cannot afford 10 matches of mediocre performances to step up in this season.
As mentioned above, promoting Sam Curran – especially in such run-chases is key for CSK. The English youngster can put bowling attacks under pressure even if he has a short stay on the pitch. Apart from his exploits, he also offers a left-right combination which has been missing after the absence of Raina.
CSK needs to ensure that MS Dhoni is not left with too much to do when he arrives at the crease. One of the most efficient ways in which they can prevent such a situation is Dhoni promoting himself. Over the past few years, Dhoni’s strength lies more in building the innings, and in absence of Raina, the CSK captain is left with a bigger responsibility to do so.
Over the years, Chennai Super Kings have stamped their authority in the tournament as one of its most consistent teams. It is often a running gag that the IPL is a tournament where seven teams compete to take on Chennai Super Kings in the play-offs. These are still only the initial days of the tournament, and MS Dhoni’s men have enough firepower in them to turn it around.