The Chennai Super Kings turned the clock back on Monday (April 19, 2021). The 45-run demolition of the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League match at the Wankhede Stadium was reminiscent of the halcyon days when CSK stomped around with authority.
More than the victory, the manner in which it was achieved will give a fillip to CSK as they strive to erase the bitter memories of the dismal campaign last year. That doesn’t mean that CSK have the makings of champions this year. Not yet. There’s still some way to go. But it was a performance that would inject plenty of confidence.
That confidence stems from the batting display. Although none of the batsmen capitalised on the starts, Faf du Plessis, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu chipped in with useful contributions that gave CSK a fighting total of 188.
Perhaps, the most striking aspect was the intent. Even when CSK lost wickets regularly, each new batsman kept up the pressure with aggressive strokes. And there were partnerships too. They did dawdle a bit after Over 13, resulting in undue haste at the end. Or else, CSK could have topped 200. Yet, they will take heart from the way CSK batsmen imposed their authority on the rival bowlers.
In the absence of dew, CSK bowlers felt they were bowling at the Chepauk pitch in Chennai. There was grip and turn. Spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Moeen Ali shared five wickets. And Jadeja, who had suffered at the hands of Jos Buttler, turned one past the blade of the Rajasthan opener. Rajasthan never really recovered from that blow in the 12th over. They collapsed in a heap.
It was an easy victory. Easy victories do not fit the learning curve, but it lends plenty of confidence. And CSK will need that for the rest of the IPL 2021 journey. Opener Ruturaj Gaikwad’s woeful run may be a worry, but if the rest of the batsmen keep scoring, they can afford Gaikwad the time to run into form.
Winners of the inaugural edition, Rajasthan Royals continue to be an enigma. Big wins and big losses. That stems from the reliance on a few star players. If Buttler had stayed, the ending could well have been different. When Buttler falls, there’s no one to pick up the gauntlet, although David Miller did in the previous match. When Miller too fails, the bottom falls off. That’s fragile batting.
Skipper Sanju Samson should take the bulk of the blame. He continues to seek refuge in the explanation that stroke players will have off days. But one magical knock in five innings will not benefit the team. As captain, he should have the courage to bridle his instinct and play with more game awareness. That’s the hallmark of a leader.
Samson’s last two dismissals were self-inflicted and did not befit a player of his talent or stature. Rajasthan’s batting resources are so poor that Samson cannot afford to fail. He should remember that if he entertains any thoughts of steering Rajasthan to the play-off stage. This loss will hurt Rajasthan as much as it bolsters CSK.