At the end of a match, that was slightly bewildering at times, Chennai Super Kings skipper MS Dhoni cut a rather desolate figure.
The approach taken by the CSK batsmen while trying to chase down Delhi Capitals’ 175/3 was baffling at times and utterly frustrating at others. And clearly, none of it had made sense to Dhoni. If only for a moment, the leader of the most consistent team in IPL history seemed rather powerless and as lost as the rest of us.
A safe approach to start the innings is fine but by the end of the Powerplay, CSK had crawled to 34/2. By the 10th over, the score had advanced to 47/3. A run-rate of 4.7 when the asking rate was 12.90.
Yet, the last four in the innings had come off the first ball of the sixth over. After that, the batsmen, Faf du Plessis and Kedar Jadhav, had dealt mainly in singles and dots.
The next four of the CSK innings came in the 12th over. By then, the match was already lost. Well, some might say it was lost by the 6th over itself. Hell, some might even say it was lost before they stepped out to bat – that is how poor their lack of intent was.
“I don’t think it was a good game for us,” Dhoni said after the game. “The wicket did slow down a bit, there was no dew, but I think we are lacking steam in the batting department. We need to figure that out. The break in the next seven days is the best chance we could get: give them match simulation and look for the right balance. If you look at the bowling department, they are not at all consistent.”
Dhoni added: “We are one batsman heavy, and we can only think of getting one more bowler, we need some signs that they can take the extra load. Rayudu should play the next match so he gives us the room to experiment with the extra bowler.”
CSK’s USP, over the last few years, has been their experienced squad. It made them different; it made them able to adapt and change. But this time around, they look undercooked. Nay, they look old. Their play has been characterised, not by their usual smarts but by a strange lethargy.
It seems nothing had gone their way from the moment they stepped into the UAE. They were forced to be in quarantine longer than the other squads due to the positive tests. They have lost experienced players (Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh to personal reasons and Ambati Rayudu and Dwayne Bravo to injury) and they just haven’t looked match-ready as a result. These reasons might sound like excuses but right now, perhaps, even that would help CSK. It’ll just give the team a peg to stand on.
Even as India captain, Dhoni would always talk about how the results don’t matter as much as the effort that was being put in by the players. If he was satisfied that the players had given it their all, then he would brush aside the loss as an aberration. That’s just how he was and still is.
But in his comments after the match, he shone a harsh light on the aspects of CSK’s play that had been troubling him. He didn’t name anyone but those in the team should know better.
M Vijay needs to do better – he takes too long getting set and then gets out. Shane Watson needs to give CSK more bang for their bucks. Du Plessis has scored runs but they haven’t really impacted the matches. No one really knows what Kedar Jadhav is doing in the team. Ruturaj Gaikwad seems like a deer caught in the headlights. Dhoni, in his own words, isn’t ready. Ravindra Jadeja is the first spinner to concede 40+ runs in three successive IPL games. Deepak Chahar hasn’t got the early breakthroughs. Piyush Chawla has seemed out of sorts too.
To paraphrase Martin Johnson, there are only three things wrong with this CSK team: they can’t bat, can’t bowl, and can’t field.
But here’s the good part for CSK. They have hit rock bottom and from here on, their fans will hope they can be better. Some harsh words will be spoken in the CSK dressing room, maybe even some changes will have to be made to the playing XI.
But the break will give them time to reevaluate where they stand and as experienced pros, they should be able to come up with solutions. For the moment, though, they will be feeling like they are caught on a slippery slope – a few wrong steps could send them hurtling down and out of the tournament.
As Mumbai Indians have shown in the past, a bad start can be overcome and for now, CSK will look to overcome their shortcomings in whatever way possible because what must be done, must be done.