Kolkata: After an aberration in the IPL 2020 season in the UAE, Chennai Super Kings find themselves in the familiar top half of the table again. They are on top of the table at the moment on better nett run-rate (both CSK and Royal Challengers Bangalore have three wins from four games) but more importantly, the ‘Yellove’ look potent enough to be one of the play-off contenders for now.
A big plus point for the CSK management, over the years, had been their faith in the principles of continuity - something which has created a family feel in the franchise apart from yielding rich dividends on the field. Call them the ‘Daddy’s Army’ if you feel, but they have always relied on the virtues of experience and at the same time promoted Indian talent - much like Mumbai Indians - and plugged the necessary gaps in the team with quality overseas stars.
This explains their faith in retaining Faf du Plessis, now 37, this season when the former South African captain himself expressed doubts whether he would be back after a nightmarish season in 2020 in the UAE. Faf may have missed out on an extremely well-deserved century as he was left stranded at 95 off 60 balls, but the way he paced his innings - first by allowing his younger partner Ruturaj Gaekwad to take the initiative and then going full blast, betrayed the role of a batting leader in the team.
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The 115-run opening partnership between the two, which saw both applying the cricket sense to show respect to Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine and then taking on the quicker bowlers like Pat Cummins and Prasidh Krishna to the cleaners by using their pace, set the team on course for a big total. It’s pertinent to note here how coach Stephen Fleming backed the young Gaekwad when he failed for three matches in a row this year before launching into a classy innings - full of cricketing shots all around thout the poor form e wicket.
Chasing a target of 221 with an improbable asking rate of 11 is always a tough ask - especially if the opponents have swing bowler like Deepak Chahar and the wicket is doing a bit early on. Much like the match against Kings XI Punjab, Chahar’s ability to move the ball in these conditions was exemplary as he put pressure on the Knights’ top order straightaway to leave them reeling at 31 for five.
The match could have been over as a contest there but Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik started middling the ball with ease - the dew posing a few problems for the young Sam Curran. Pat Cummins’ innings was also extraordinary but with the asking rate climing upto 13-plus, it was never going to be easy for the Knights.
Where do the Knights go from here? There are pertinent questions being asked about the woeful batting form of Eoin Morgan, which is also reflecting on his leadership. His mantra of ultre-aggressive cricket, which may have revolutionised England’s white ball game, is also proving counter-productive for the top order.
A long, hard look at themselves - rather than knee-jerk reaction - seems to be the need of the hour.