Three times IPL title holder Chennai Super Kings (CSK) is finding it difficult to impose its class on this season’s competition thus far.
Over the years, this franchise has been the most successful.
They have always qualified for the playoffs (top 4) every season.
Additionally, they have played the most finals in IPL history and ultimately won 3 IPL titles.
Their success has been attributed to the insightful and strategic moves of their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Dhoni is also credited for being a calm, cool, calculated, and composed captain. He has won the respect of his teammates and has a large fan base locally and internationally.
He is known as ‘Thala’ (Big Brother) by the CSK fans.
That said, this year, CSK has not started the tournament as well as one would have expected.
So far, they have won only one match and lost two on the trot, back to back.
Although it is early days yet in the tournament, the team will have to quickly up the ante as other teams are seeking to fire on all cylinders.
There are four reasons in my view that account for CSK lackluster performance to date:
1. Pre-tournament Blues
Chennai Super Kings had landed in UAE one month prior to the tournament. However, they landed with twelve COVID-19 positive members, including two players, which forced the franchise to extend their quarantine period to a week more.
Therefore, they were forced into quarantine for a more extended period, thus missing much-needed match practice.
Although they won their first match, the players all looked game rusty.
2. Two star players opting out
Vice-captain Suresh Raina and experienced off-spinner chose to opt-out of this year’s IPL season, citing personal reasons.
The team badly misses both these players. Suresh Raina has been the second-best run scorer in IPL and can anchor the innings and win matches for CSK single-handedly.
Although Faf Du Plessis has done exceptionally well so far filling the gap of Suresh Raina, playing an overseas player in that position hurts the team’s balance.
CSK is finding it challenging to give leg-spinner Imran Tahir or West Indies all-rounder Dwyane Bravo a game as only four foreign players can play in the 11.
On the other hand, the team also lacks variety in the spin department with the absence of Harbhajan Singh.
Leggie Chawla and left armer Jadeja are going for quite a lot of runs in the middle overs, thus allowing the opponent to score quickly in the death overs.
3. Lack of firepower in the batting –
Chennai Super Kings has struggled with the bat between the overs 7-15 especially while chasing.
Dhoni has tried Sam Curran at playing that finishing role; however, he scored few cameos by scoring quick runs.
The fact is Curran is more of a pinch hitter than a finisher.
There is instability in batting positions four, five, and six.
Dhoni has tried moving batsmen up and down the order, trying to fit young Rituraj Gaikwad in the middle order, promoting Sam Curran up the order, and many more.
Ambati Rayudu’s return will temporarily solve the problem, but they need to find a way out the conundrum for the long term.
4. The Reluctant Dhoni
We all know that MS Dhoni is one of the best finishers in world cricket. He has been away from cricket for more than a year now.
Recently, he also announced his retirement from international cricket.
This year playing for CSK, Dhoni was expected to play with a free mind by not carrying the extra baggage of the World Cup 2019 semi-final.
In the absence of Raina, he could have played that anchor role in the number three or four positions and later flourish at the end, which wasn’t the case in the first three matches.
Dhoni, while chasing a mammoth score of 216 against Rajasthan Royals, came in at number seven after the 15th over, which wasn’t a good decision. He took a few balls to settle down in that match and later in the last over smacked the balls out of the park. Till then, it was too late as Chennai felt short by 16 runs.
The same mistake he repeated in the next match against Delhi Capitals. CSK, while chasing 176, he (MS) came after 17th over. This time too, he wasn’t middling the balls, and in the end, the team fell short by a considerable margin (49 runs).
Although these are early days in the IPL, there are worrying signs for Dhoni and his team.
Chennai Super Kings and Dhoni have a lot to do to meet their fans’ expectations as they have established lofty standards.
It is good a time as any for the team to take stock and learn from their mistakes.
Hopefully, we will see a good come-back by the Chennai Super Kings in the forthcoming matches.
Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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