The viewership surges by 119 percent in Chennai for matches featuring Chennai Super Kings (CSK) compared to those involving other IPL teams, says a survey. The most loyal IPL fan base though is at its wit’s end after CSK’s back-to-back tame attempts unsuccessfully chasing a target. The question foremost on everyone’s mind is whether the team dubbed the ‘dad’s army’ is finally running out of steam?
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On Friday, Delhi Capitals (DC) beat them in their own game—tactically and through superior performances in the spin department. Axar Patel exploited Shane Watson’s poor record against his left-arm spin, dismissing him in the opening powerplay phase. Watson’s former Australia team-mate and DC coach Ricky Ponting couldn’t hide his delight.
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Among the many tactical blunders was sending in inexperienced Ruturaj Gaikwad at No.4 to join Faf du Plessis when Amit Mishra and Patel were bowling tightly against right-handers instead of counter-attacking through left-handers Sam Curran or Ravindra Jadeja.
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Coach Stephen Fleming admitted CSK’s shortcomings. “We’ve used that tactic (promoting Curran) in the last couple of games, but with Kedar Jadhav and also MS, we’ve almost got too many batting options at the moment. So we were a bit muddled with what we’re sending out.
“We just need to be a bit clearer with what we’re doing. Perhaps what we’re missing is a bigger contribution at the top,” he said after the match. “It’s a lot of question marks and soul-searching in particular from the coaching point of view and strategy point of view. We’re trying to find combinations where we get the best players in at the right times. To keep shunting the order all over the place is not really our style, but we’ve had a go at it and we’ll review how it’s gone.”
A six-day break before their next game gives CSK time to ensure the match isn’t done by the time Dhoni walks out to bat. On Friday, he came in with the asking rate at 18-an-over. It was over 16-an-over in the loss against RR. Dhoni said: “When it comes to batting, we are lacking a bit of steam. There is no momentum right from the start, which hurts. If you are already chasing 160-plus, the run-rate keeps mounting and puts added pressure on the middle-order batsmen.”
With opener Murali Vijay looking out of sorts and Watson yet to fire, after Suresh Raina left the team bio-bubble, CSK are short on batting firepower. Dhoni expects Ambati Rayudu—he hit a 48-ball 71 in the win over Mumbai Indians but missed the next two games due to a hamstring strain—to return for the next game.
Spin is another worry for a team that swaps spinning combinations at will when playing in Chennai based on the opposing batsmen. For two games in a row, the Chawla-Jadeja combine has gone for around 10 runs an over while South Africa leg-spinner Imran Tahir, last year’s purple-cap holder as highest wicket-taker, does drink duties.
“It’s an area of concern because it’s been such a strength for CSK. You’ve got to think the style of play we’ve developed over the last 12 years is heavily based on spin,” Fleming said. “We’re struggling to adjust to the pace and style we have to bowl through the middle. That in the last two games in particular has been an area we haven’t done so well. We need to rectify that.”
Dhoni said, playing on the big UAE grounds, bowlers must also change focus from taking wickets to bowling a steady line and check scoring.