The first win for the Chennai Super Kings came in their fifth game of IPL 2022. That’s a long drought for four-time champions. Will we see a Chennai victory march now that they have claimed the first points? No, it’s too early to say. One swallow doesn’t make a summer.
The next few games will tell us if the CSK are genuine contenders, although the Whistle Podu (blow the whistle) fan army will hope this is the beginning of a purple patch. No doubt, Tuesday’s 23-run win over the Royal Challengers Bangalore was a big relief for Chennai. But it also showed some of the inherent flaws in the side.
The Uthappa-Dube show
Take the batting, for example. It was purely a Robin Uthappa-Shivam Dube show. No other batsmen contributed. Well, they didn’t need to. Uthappa and Dube had scored earlier too, and besides them, only Moeen Ali had been among the runs. So the batting headache remains, although Ruturaj Gaikwad showed glimpses of returning to form.
Who will pick up the gauntlet in games where Uthappa, Dube and Ali fail to get the runs. That worry will persist until Ambati Rayudu and skipper Ravindra Jadeja weigh in with big scores, although Mahendra Singh Dhoni had one good game with the bat. The nagging suspicion remains whether Chennai would have piled up more than 200 if Harshal Patel had turned out for Bangalore. But that thought remains in the realm of conjecture. So let it lie there.
The Theekshana mystery
Chennai’s bowling resources have been sparse since an injury laid low Deepak Chahar, and Adam Milne continues to nurse a niggle. That has robbed the CSK of wicket-taking skills upfront. Spin looked better against the RCB, more so since the DY Patil Stadium pitch offered some grip and bite. Jadeja was able to bring the spinners early to get wickets, and it was heartening to Ali bowl his off-breaks in the powerplay, just as he does for England. And any help for Maheesh Theekshana’s mystery spin can be devastating, as he showed on Tuesday.
That begs the question of what will Chennai bowlers do when they encounter conditions that are not amenable to spin. That’s where they lack a genuine leggie to buy wickets. Seamer Mukesh Choudhary might get an odd wicket or two, and Dwayne Bravo can be handy in the middle overs and the slog, but who will take wickets to throttle the rivals.
The Karthik scare
Even when the CSK were dominant in the field on Tuesday, Dinesh Karthik threatened to take the match away. Mistakes crept in: some bowling changes seemed odd, and there were several fielding lapses. CSK could breathe easily only when Karthik holed out at the fence.
Latest reports indicate that Chahar’s return could be delayed, or he may not even be able to turn up this season due to another injury. That will be a massive blow since they don’t have adequate backups.
More worrying is the fielding. True, veteran Rayudu brought off a spellbinding catch, and Jadeja and Gaikwad are excellent fielders. But the three dropped catches by Choudhary and the lethargy on the field are cause for concern.
Chennai are still not out of the woods, but the win over Bangalore was a salve to their wounds. The impetus from the win could propel them to more victories. More importantly, confidence would have returned to the players. The win was indeed a morale-booster.
A string of CSK victories will have the rivals on the hop. That would add more spice to what is already an unpredictable IPL.