Updated: April 27, 2021 10:21:06 am
Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are once again off and running. After four matches, they are top of the league with six points and a net run-rate of +1.142. Last season was an aberration, when the three-time Indian Premier League (IPL) champions had failed to reach the playoffs. An impact signing this term, stability and astute leadership have prompted the turnaround.
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Who is the impact signing?
At the auction, CSK walked the extra mile for Maxwell but eventually pulled out when his value soared up beyond their budget. Royal Challengers Bangalore eventually got the Australian allrounder for Rs 14.25 crore, while CSK turned their attention towards Moeen. At Rs 7 crore, they, in fact, got a better cricketer with proven international pedigree across formats. The England allrounder has more than 5,000 runs and 292 wickets in international cricket.
Batting at No. 3 for CSK, Moeen has scored 133 runs so far in four matches at a strike-rate north of 152. He has provided the early inpetus, which the team badly missed last year. Also, he has taken four wickets at an economy rate of less than 6.5 runs per over.
“He is adding an allround aspect to our game which we lacked last year,” CSK head coach Stephen Fleming said after the match against Rajasthan Royals.
How has stability helped?
Before the start of the IPL, CSK chief executive Kasi Viswanathan told The Indian Express that MS Dhoni’s team-talk at the pre-season camp was simple: “We trust our process and we have to follow our process. And if we do our process right, the results will come.”
The entire CSK management was clear that one bad season didn’t a bad team make. Suresh Raina’s abrupt departure before the last year’s IPL had hurt the side, but nobody in the CSK set-up bore a grudge. “CSK is like a family,” Viswanathan said. They welcomed back their most successful batsman. They also didn’t go for a radical overhaul of the squad. Their auction strategy was clear; hard-hitting, spin-bowling allrounders. Apart from Moeen, CSK roped in K Gowtham also for Rs 9.25 crore. Gowtham, however, hasn’t played a game yet. Obviously, Dhoni has a clear plan about when and how to use him.
Youngsters like Ruturaj Gaikwad have been benefitting from the stability. After three successive failures, he could have been under pressure. Not in Dhoni’s team. The skipper kept faith in the young opener and the latter justified it with a 42-ball 64 against Kolkata Knight Riders.
How Chahar has become an important cog in the wheel
Deepak Chahar had contracted Covid before the last year’s IPL and although he recovered to play the tournament, the medium pacer wasn’t quite in his element. Chahar has a specific role in the team, he bowls in Powerplays. And when he is bowling well, it works to his side’s advantage. Chahar has already taken eight wickets including a four-for.
How has Dhoni’s leadership impacted the turnaround?
Dhoni’s leadership allows his teammates to play freely without looking over their shoulder. Virat Kohli still talks about how his Mahi bhai backed him and allowed him to grow as a cricketer during the bedding-in phase of his career. On the field, the CSK skipper still remains one of the sharpest minds.
His handling of Ravindra Jadeja against Royals was a case in point. The left-arm spinner was being dominated by Jos Buttler and had conceded 22 runs in his first two overs. Then, the dew-soaked ball was changed and Dhoni’s message to Jadeja was: “Sukha ball hai, ghumega (it’s a dry ball, will turn).” The bowler was advised to give the ball a rip, which he did and dismissed Buttler and Shivam Dube in the same over.
Dhoni also introduced Moeen only in the 13th over with a dry ball. The off-spinner took three wickets in his first two overs.
At 39 years of age, Dhoni is past his prime as a batsman. But he can still play sharp cameos like he did against KKR – 17 runs off eight balls. A 30-yard running catch to dismiss Nitish Rana attested peak fitness.
Are Indian pitches working to CSK’s advantage?
This has long been the team’s template, Dhoni’s spin-choke. Last year, on fresh pitches in UAE, the method couldn’t be applied. Although matches are being played at neutral venues this term, Indian pitches cutting across match centres, play slow and assist turn during this time of the year. “The ball will turn on Indian pitches. With one venue hosting so many matches, pitches will become spin-friendly,” Viswanathan had predicted it.
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