The Chennai Super Kings on Sunday climbed to the top of the points table in the Indian Premier League after beating the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Having set KKR a massive target of 236, CSK restricted the home side to 186/6 to secure their fifth win of the season. Key to their victory was former India Test captain Ajinkya Rahane, who scored a blistering 71 off 29 balls. CSK’s top order of Rahane, Devon Conway (56), Shivam Dube (50) and Ruturaj Gaikwad (35) plundered the KKR bowlers for 212 runs.

Rahane has been in superb form this season having scored 209 runs at a whopping strike rate of 199.04 – the highest for any batter this season who has scored more than 100 runs. The 34-year-old’s renaissance has been one of the stories of the IPL and CSK captain MS Dhoni is pleased for his former India teammate.

“What is also important is a lot of time when you realise the potential of someone, you let him bat the way he bats. Give that liberty and just reiterate as to what are the areas where your strengths are and be positive and enjoy. I feel it always works out in the best possible manner,” Dhoni said in the post-match presentation.

“The second thing is try to give him the best position where he can score runs. If you put too many players out of position, they might find it slightly difficult. But someone has to sacrifice their slot so that the players are able to play in their slot comfortably,” he added.

Though the match was played in Kolkata, the Eden Gardens was overwhelmingly a sea of yellow as fans thronged to see Dhoni and Co back in action after two years. Even while playing Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, more fans have come wearing CSK jerseys than the merchendise of the host team.

Hinting at playing his final IPL season, Dhoni said, “Thanks for the support and they (crowd) came in big numbers. Most of them, whenever there’s a next KKR game, they will be coming in a KKR jersey. They support their team. I think it’s one of where they are trying to give me a farewell by saying we’ll be dressed in yellow. From my side, thanks a lot. It was so many yellows in one stadium.”

Chasing a record score in Kolkata, KKR knew that they had to start scoring right from the first ball and even sent pinch-hitter Sunil Narine to begin the chase with Narayan Jagadeesan. However, impact player Akash Singh and Tushar Deshpande got rid of the openers.

While Venkatesh Iyer and captain Nitish Rana got off to good starts, Moeen Ali and Ravindra Jadeja struck soon after the power-play to leave KKR at 70/4 after 8 overs.

“Yes, the fast bowlers have been doing their job and spinners have in the middle. Because the wicket was nice, one side was slightly short so we knew that they would be looking to be a bit aggressive. So it was important to take wickets and we were able to do that with the new ball. We always kept the pressure on the opposition. If you see their batting line-up, they have very powerful hitters down the order so they can take it to the 20th over. You have to give respect to the opposition,” Dhoni said.

Deshpande, Singh and Sri Lanka’s Matheesha Pathirana have been in good form for CSK despite not being the team’s first-choice bowlers going into the season. With injuries ruling out Mukesh Chaudhary and Kyle Jamieson for the season and with Deepak Chahar and Ben Stokes temporarily unavailable with injuries, Deshpande, Singh and Pathirana have become CSK’s frontline pacers.

The trio have repaid Dhoni’s faith with match-winning efforts with Deshpande fifth in the list of highest wicket-takers this season with 12 wickets.

“I keep it very simple. I have a clear funda, whoever is injured, he can’t do anything,” Dhoni said about his bowling attack still being able to deliver despite missing first-choice bowlers.

“So rather than thinking about who is injured, I always concentrate on who can be the one person who looks more prepared looking at the venue and see the youngster who can get the chance and motivate him in the best possible manner and guide him and hope he performs. We have been fortunate that whoever got a chance has been able to perform. So touchwood, it keeps going – not the injuries but the performance,” he added.

CSK next travel to Jaipur to face the Rajasthan Royals on Thursday while KKR take on Royal Challengers Bangalore in Bengaluru on Wednesday.