At the 10-over mark in their chase against Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai Super Kings were 90/1 with Shane Watson batting on 43* and Ambati Rayudu on 24*. The equation at this point read: 78 runs needed in 60 balls. A required run-rate of 7.8. An ODI-level chase if there ever was one, bang in MS Dhoni territory.
The odd four every other over would have got them to their target with a fair degree of ease. It would’ve. It should’ve. But in the end, Kolkata Knight Riders won by 10 runs.
So what really happened?
If this wasn’t 2020, we would have considered this odd. But CSK, after reducing the required rate to 7.8, dug themselves into a deep hole and then couldn’t find their way out of it. In a way, the forward defensive strokes employed by Kedar Jadhav to play out two dots in the 17th over are emblematic of their problem.
Dhoni has built a career by keeping his side in games; by taking it deep. But now, perhaps the thought process and the execution don’t match anymore. The mind is willing but the bodies of the CSK veterans are clearly not.
From 90/1 in the 10th over, CSK advanced to 110/3 in the 15th over. 20 runs in 5 overs. No fours. No sixes. And in this period, the required rate went up from 7.8 to 11.60. Of course, KKR played their role in this.
Karthik held back Sunil Narine for the second half of the innings and it paid dividends. The finger spinner’s first two overs went for just 8 runs, it helped pile on the pressure under which CSK seemingly crumbled.
11th over (Cummins): 4 runs
12th over (Narine): 5 runs
13th over (Nagarkoti): 2 runs, 1 wicket (Rayudu)
14th over (Narine): 3 runs, 1 wicket (Watson)
15th over (Chakravarthy): 6 runs
5 overs, 20 runs, 2 wickets
In the post-match interview, Dhoni knew where his team had messed up: “In the middle overs, there was a phase when they bowled two-three good overs. Then we lost wickets. If our batting was different during that period, the result would have been different.”
But even after this period, CSK had a chance. They had wickets in hand and the RRR was (by T20 standards) just 11.60. Game on one would have thought but Jadhav effectively closed the door on the chase by scoring just 1 run off the first six balls he faced. If you do that then you better be prepared to do a Tewatia but he couldn’t.
The right-hander has now played 59 balls without hitting a six in IPL 2020. It is the most balls played without hitting a six this season. Jadhav’s SR of 98.30 (after 6 matches in IPL 2020) is better than his SR of 95.85 (in IPL 2019) but frankly put, no batsman has any business playing in the IPL with that kind of strike-rate.
CSK coach Stephen Fleming has clearly mentioned that they look at Jadhav as their No 4 but it was surprising to see him being held back when the equation was clearly achievable.
Dhoni probably promoted himself thinking, he’ll have time to settle in and be there at the end. But when he fell early after making 11 off 12 balls, he basically sounded the death knell for CSK.
“There were no boundaries in the end,” said Dhoni after the game. “And you have to be slightly innovative in these scenarios. If someone is bowling just back of a length, you have to find a way to hit boundaries.”
The lack of initiative cost CSK a match that they would have most likely won in the past. The matches CSK have won this season, have been won at the top. In the first match against MI, du Plessis and Rayudu did the trick. In the match against KXIP, du Plessis and Watson finished things off.
The defeat isn’t on Jadhav alone. Far from it. It was a collective failure. But it is rather ironic that CSK, led by Dhoni, one of the great chasers of all-time, are no longer able to finish games off. Rather, it is the chase that is finishing them off.