IPL 2021: Chennai against Delhi should be a cracker of a contest

Ayaz Memon/Mumbai
Filed on October 3, 2021
Chennai Super Kings batsman Suresh Raina has been struggling for form. — BCCI

This season's two best performing teams square off in Dubai on Monday

This clash between the season’s best performing teams promises enthralling fare. Both teams are tied on points (18), and while the Chennai Super Kings are top of the table now on Net Run Rate, the momentum is with the Delhi Capitals, who beat defending champions Mumbai Indians in a low-scoring thriller over the weekend. CSK, on the other hand, lost to the Rajasthan Royals in a high-scoring slam-bang match.

So, how do the team stack up?

CSK’s openers Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis have been in roaring form. Gaikwad’s century against RR on Sunday was arguably this season’s best innings, and which earned him the Orange Cap. Faf du Plessis is also among the top five run getters, and opposing bowlers have suffered at the hand of these openers.

Against RR, however, their effort came to nought. CSK ran up a mammoth 189 but failed to defend it against Rajasthan’s rampaging top order batsmen Yashasvi Jaiswal, Evin Lewis and Shivam Dube, in the process showing up some chinks in the Chennai team’s armour. On a featherbed track, the par score was 200-210.

The continued poor form of Suresh Raina, and inconsistent run-getting of Ambati Rayudu means CSK’s run-potential is not being completely maximised. Moeen Ali is getting starts in every match, but is being restricted to cameos, falling to impetuous strokes. Apart from the openers, Ravindra Jadeja is the only other batsman to make significant contributions.

In the bowling, CSK sorely missed Dwayne Bravo’s experience and clever variations against RR as every other bowler – pace and spin – was put to the sword by Jaiswal, Lewis and Dube. The game plan of trying to lure these batsmen into errors by pitching short backfired badly.

One can’t be overly critical of a team which is No.1 on the points table. It could also be that MS Dhoni was trying out players and tactics (Jadeja, for instance bowled only one over), but must address the concerns thrown up in Sunday’s match. While CSK’s win record is impressive (four out of five in this phase), there are some areas that need improvement or consolidation.

DC, who too have won four out of five matches in the second phase, have some issues of their own. Unlike CSK, their openers Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw haven’t been able to sustain the flourish of the first phase. Steve Smith, in the couple of matches he’s played, has looked pedestrian, Shimron Hetmyer overzealous. Rishabh Pant has been in good nick, but has not played the match-winner. It took an innings of maturity and control from Shreyas Iyer to take the team home in a close contest with MI.

Where DC have been superb right through is in the bowling. Like CSK, DC’s bowling has variety, depth and experience, but has produced better performances. Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada and Avesh Khan have been sensational, Axar Patel has got wickets regularly and the crafty R Ashwin a potent threat even if he doesn’t have too many victims against his name.

Collectively, CSK have overall vaster experience, and advantage in crunch matches. But they will have to be at their best to quell DC’s exuberance and ambition.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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