IPL 2022: Probably the last time MSD will lead CSK

From a sentimental point of view, fans would be hoping he gets a winning farewell

By Ayaz Memon

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Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni. — BCCI
Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni. — BCCI

Published: Thu 19 May 2022, 11:47 PM

For a few years now, Rajasthan Royals have been the most exciting team in the IPL but also the most enigmatic. They’ve pulled off spectacular wins, but also shockingly lost matches they should have cakewalked. Consistency, it was believed, was not their strong suit.

This season, there’s been a transformation of sorts in Rajasthan’s approach. One part of this comes from the retentions made before the mega auction, followed by players bought in the auction. In earlier years, the franchise would frequently go for wholesale changes, and pay top dollar for one or two marquee players which didn’t pay off. For this season (and the next two as well), the team management went back to the drawing board, worked out a new strategy, and using the dynamics of the mega auction to their advantage, got a clutch of high value players like Trent Boult, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shimron Hetmyer, Prasidh Krishna to add to Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson and Yashasvi Jaiswal they had retained. This gave the team a fine blend of youth and experience, rich overseas and Indian talent, which translated into high value in terms of performances.

Another important factor in RR’s success so far this season is, for want of a better description, a more responsible approach by players to not just entertain, but also win matches. The intrepidity and daredevilry which always made RR so delightful to watch hasn’t been compromised. What has been added to the usual flair and panache is a stronger understanding of playing according to match situations. This has helped them overcome crises of their own making and also exploit the vulnerabilities of rival teams.

I must add one more ingredient in the recipe that RR have used this season: Dollops of ambition. Winners of the title in the inaugural IPL season way back in 2008 under Shane Warne, the squad seems to be motivated in repeating that success as homage to the talismanic Warne, who tragically passed away a couple of weeks before the tournament started this year.

How strong this ambition is reflected in Shimron Hetmyer returning back from a brief paternity break to be at his wife’s side for their first born in the Caribbean, in time for this match. Given his contributions as well as the fairly strong position RR are in, he could have been excused if he had stayed back a day or two more. But Hetmyer doesn’t want to miss out on even the slightest bit of action.

Alas, it’s not been quite the same story with defending champions Chennai Super Kings this season. Their campaign never took off, and by the time they reached their last match this season, which is against RR on Friday night, poor performances have been compounded by controversies surrounding stalwarts Ravindra Jadeja and Ambati Rayudu.

Apart from occasional flashes of brilliance, too few to be consequential in a tournament this long, CSK have been so much below par that only the brave would pick them to get the better of Rajasthan. Of course, the format is unpredictable, but the big problem for the defending champions right through has been they’ve not jelled to be a cohesive unit.

There’s been heavy drama involving the captaincy this year, with MS Dhoni giving up the job before the season started, then taking up the responsibility again when Jadeja stepped down. Friday night is most likely the last time Dhoni leads CSK in the IPL. From a sentimental point of view, fans would be hoping he gets a winning farewell.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

Players To Watch Out For:

CSK: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Mukesh Choudhary, MS Dhoni

RR: Sanju Samson, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shimron Hetmyer

Key contests: Trent Boult vs Ruturaj Gaikwad, Mukesh Choudhary vs Jos Buttler

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