Dubai: MS Dhoni is well aware of what lies ahead as his Chennai Super Kings take on a constantly improving Royal Challengers Bangalore, while Rajasthan Royals will have to contend with high-flying defending champions Mumbai Indians in Sunday’s double-headers.
Chennai — finalists last year — suffered a 10-wicket thrashing at the hands of Mumbai on Friday and have been totally out of sorts, with eight defeats from the 11 matches they have played so far.
They still have an outside mathematical chance of making it to the play-offs. But it is nigh on impossible as they need to win their remaining three matches while also substantially improving on their net run-rate — and their morale of course — while also relying on other results going their way, if they are to join the Mumbai Indian, Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore as one of top four sides this season.
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The three-time IPL champions have struggled in all departments amid growing voices of dissent asking the team management to rely more on the youngsters within the squad.
That happened on Friday as youngsters Ruturaj Gaekwad and Narayan Jagadeesan were given an opportunity, but both batsmen perished without even scoring a single run between them, and CSK suffered their first-ever 10-wicket loss in the IPL.
“We have to make the most of the next three games and start our preparations for next year,” Dhoni admitted after that loss late on Friday, seemingly accepting that their campaign is over.
“We need to identify the batsmen, find out who will bowl at the death, and hopefully the players will be in a position to soak up the pressure.”
Virat Kohli’s RCB have simply gone on improving with each match. Sitting third, Bangalore were impressive in their eight-wicket thrashing of the Kolkata Knight Riders, earlier during the week.
Perhaps one man that has made a huge difference to the team is all-rounder Chris Morris, who has made a substantial contribution with bat and ball and his side are all but assured of a play-off spot.
In the day’s late game, Rajasthan will be looking at getting the right balance if they are to prevail over an ominous-looking Mumbai side.
In their last encounter against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rajasthan stumbled as Manish Pandey cracked an unbeaten 83 from 47 deliveries and stole the match away with less than two overs to spare. But, the Royals have been hitting the sweet spot at times, and all they now need is to find consistency against a Mumbai side that are looking good for a successful title defence.
Mumbai were at the impervious best on Friday with that smashing 10-wicket lesson handed out to Chennai. The only missing link, perhaps, would be their skipper Rohit Sharma, who is being monitored for a hamstring strain.
But the skipper’s absence was not even felt on Friday as unbeaten Ishan Kishan and Quinton de Kock made things look easy and sublime.