Dubai: The Chennai Super Kings will need to swiftly hit their stride if they are to be counted among the threats for a fourth crown of the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season.
The MS Dhoni-led side have a crunch tie against Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore in an intriguing mid-table clash of past and present India captains in Saturday’s second match at the Dubai Cricket Stadium.
As things stand, both teams are yet to get a rhythm to their IPL campaigns this year. In the past, the CSK have not often disappointed their ‘Whistle Podu’ fans. But this season has been one of ups and downs with CSK not hitting their stride when needed most.
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All-rounder Kedar Jadhav was at the centre of criticism while struggling to score in CSK’s 10-run loss to the Kolkata Knight Riders last week. But, this was followed by Aussie opener Shane Watson coming handy in their 10-wicket win against Kings XI Punjab.
“If our batting was different during that period, the result would have been different you have to be slightly innovative in these scenarios,” Dhoni said after the 10-run loss to Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi, last Wednesday.
The Lions had dominated the contest for most part, but let the match slip away while requiring only 39 runs from 21 deliveries, with six wickets in hand. “We’ve got a pretty good balance,” CSK coach Stephen Fleming said after seeing the CSK bowlers restrict KKR to 167.
Leg-spinner Karn Sharma was the pick of the bowlers in his first game of the season to dismiss left-handers Nitish Rana and Sunil Narine and return with figures of 2-25.
“Karn has been waiting for a while for an opportunity. And he came in today, he was a bit unlucky but the next three (overs) he worked really hard and got us back in the game,” Fleming said. “As the pitches get drier, we can use him in combination with Piyush (Chawla) and Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja). We might be able to operate with more spinners which we are used to.”
The CSK bowling will be up against a strong RCB batting line-up led by captain Kohli, whose return to form was ushered in with a fine knock against Rajasthan Royals last week.
Though the Kohli-led team faltered in the subsequent match against Delhi Capitals, they will be looking for an improved performance against the three-time champions.
Besides Kohli, there is the young Devdutt Padikkal, while former South African skipper AB de Villiers has managed to be the key player he is for the RCB. Lower down, the big-hitting Aaron Finch has not quite managed to find his rhythm in the middle. But, batting wouldn’t be a worry for Dhoni when compared to the bowling department.
While leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar have managed to hold on to their frugality with runs, it is the pace trio of Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini who have so far leaked away the runs.
Much of the attention on Saturday evening will be on how CSK’s batting thrives against the RCB bowling attack, and that will play a big role in the final outcome of the game.