IPL 2021: Chennai look to bounce back after twin defeats

Ayaz Memon/Mumbai
Filed on October 6, 2021
Skipper MS Dhoni will hope to fix the batting problems faced by CSK in their last two games. — BCCI

MS Dhoni's side go up against Punjab Kings in Dubai

After winning three matches on the trot, Chennai Super Kings have surprisingly tumbled in their last two matches. Against Rajasthan Royals, CSK failed to defend a massive 189, and against Delhi Capitals, a stout-hearted attempt to protect a modest 136 also ended in failure.

The two defeats have not affected their place in the playoffs. But they have put a question mark against them finishing in the top two, which is where they looked certain to finish before this double setback. A win in this game could secure them this position.

Since CSK failed both times fielding second, it may be construed that they were let down by the bowling, but that is misplaced. In fact, it is the batting, barring openers Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis and Ravindra Jadeja, in the lower order, that has been the letdown. The middle-order has shown growing fragility.

Even when scoring 189 against RR, CSK didn’t quite actualize the runs possible on a featherbed pitch, despite a smashing opening partnership by Gaikwad and Du Plessis. The middle-order caved in. Jadeja’s late flourish gave the score a bump, but CSK still finished 15-20 runs short.

Against Delhi Capitals, the openers didn’t fire and neither did the other batsmen, apart from Ambati Rayudu. On a sluggish pitch, CSK’s innings lacked planning. There were too many loose shots, and Dhoni might have been better served by sending the in-form Jadeja ahead of himself.

Had CSK got eight to 10 runs more, they would probably have won that game. Krishnappa Gowtham’s dropped catch off Shimron Hetmyer — a careless mistake that suggested loss of concentration — also highlighted Chennai’s fielding lapses.

For a team that had been performing fantastically, to slip up in two successive matches is not so much about talent as focus.

If CSK have to stave off RCB’s bid to get into the top two, they will have to be at their best in this match, starting from team selection, batting order, better fielding, sharper bowling and greater intent. And who knows this better than Dhoni?

Punjab Kings are hanging by a slender thread to remain in contention for a place in the playoffs. A victory does not guarantee a place but increases the mathematical probability of it, subject to how KKR and MI fare, which is the best they can hope for at this stage.

Truth be told, PBKS have brought this situation on themselves. At least a couple of matches were lost from winning positions which in the highly competitive environment of the IPL is an invitation to disaster. What will rile the team’s supporters as well as chief coach Anil Kumble is that such pusillanimity appears to have become a pattern, spreading over different seasons.

With very little support from the middle and lower order, PBKS have become a two-batsmen side, which makes sustained success difficult.

KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal have been magnificent, but nobody else has been even modestly good. This has put a big onus on these two and even more on the bowlers who have actually been quite splendid, creating winning situations and opportunities, that have been squandered.

Whether PBKS still have some gas left in the tank to pull off an upset at this stage remains to be seen.

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