Dubai: The story of the south Indian derby between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings on Saturday night was as much about Virat Kohli – as it was about the fall from grace of Chennai Super Kings.
This is the Kohli whom we know – a man with fierce commitment and professionalism to his craft – who would have made the stage his own anyway after he got sufficient time out in the middle in the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). What, however, pains is the way Chennai’s campaign has floundered after a promising start – with their 10-wicket win against Kings XI Punjab standing out like an aberration.
Just ponder this – the Yellove chase during which they scored 132 had only one six coming from the bat of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. For a team which not so long ago prided itself on their ability to chase down the best of totals, a target of 170 on a dual-paced wicket in Dubai was a challenging one – but not altogether impossible.
However, once the openers Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis fell in trying to take on Washington Sundar – the chase of the three-time champions’ completely fell apart. It again was an eye-opener about the role Suresh Raina had been playing behind the team’s success all these years – something which Ambati Rayudu is not really capable of despite being an honest trier.
Tottering at 25 for two inside the Powerplay overs, one would have expected MSD to walk out himself even three to four years back – but the captain has lost that self-belief to hit the team out of trouble. There were two left-handers sitting in the dugout in young Sam Curran and Ravindra Jadeja, who would have complemented Rayudu and have the ability to take the aerial route with ease.
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Hence, it defied logic to see IPL debutant Narayan Jagdeesan walking out to join Rayudu when the asking rate was already 10-plus after a floundering start. The bearded youngster, who looked more of an accumulator than a power hitter, played well within his limitations to score 33 off 28 balls – but he was surely no matchwinner.
Dhoni himself came on after the Jagdeesan-Rayudu partnership was broken, but it’s no longer the Dhoni of yore who could conjure those big overs with a flurry of sixes to bring down asking rates hovering at 14-plus. The inevitable happened, which in the process, negated the initiative given by their much-maligned bowlers so far.
Where does the Chennai campaign go from here? They can certainly bounce back from here onwards - but it may make sense to address the problems at hand rather than banking on the Dhoni magic time and again. The crying need at this hour, for them, is an experienced middle order batsman who can shore up the innings – and now that a mid-season transfer is now coming up - they may even think of tapping Delhi Capitals for someone like Ajinkya Rahane. The transfer rule says that any player who has played less than two games for his team so far in IPL 2020 is eligible to be traded off - and the CSK management can keep their minds open.
There is also someone like Josh Hazzlewood warming the benches. The CSK management has certainly noticed that in at least three of the successful franchises, there is an overseas leader in the pace attack in Trent Boult, Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada - a role that can be assumed by the Australian.
Here’s hoping that the Whistle Podu fans get something to cheer about soon...