If this was Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) 4th heaviest defeat in terms of runs then it was the 5th biggest win for Delhi Capitals (DC) by the margin of runs. That also probably sums up the current form of these two teams in the IPL. After a winning start, CSK has uncharacteristically tumbled in back-to-back matches in the first week of IPL 2020. A 44-run defeat against a team like DC (which they have bossed around in the past) is an ominous sign for CSK’s campaign in this tournament.
Gulf between the top four batters proved decisive
Inarguably, Delhi capitals’ batting has got the best of Team India’s white ball talents in its top-four while for Chennai Super Kings, except for Faf du Plessis, none of the batters in the top-four plays any kind of white ball international cricket. If missing Suresh Raina before the tournament wasn’t bad enough, CSK have also lost the architect of their first win, Ambati Rayudu, due to fitness problems. The opening pair of young Prithvi Shaw and veteran Shikhar Dhawan gave Delhi a solid platform of 94 runs.
When Dhawan got out after scoring a decent 35 runs off 27 balls, Number 3 Rishabh Pant tried to match the pace of Shaw. Surprisingly, in his 25-ball innings, Pant wasn’t able to hit a six but five boundaries gave him the strike rate of 148. Shaw maintained almost the same strike rate (148.84) for 43 balls and scored the highest individual total of the match which included a six and 9 fours.
“In the start you have to see how the wicket is, playing along the ground is more important,” said Shaw after bagging the Man of the Match award for the only fifty plus innings of the match.
In comparison, CSK openers just fail to show any kind of intent and by the time powerplay got over, they lost both the openers Shane Watson and Murali Vijay for just 34 runs on the board. Even though the in-form Faf du Plessis was still at the crease, CSK strangely failed to force the pace and after the first 10 overs, they could score just 47 runs.
“We are lacking a bit of steam in the batting and that hurts. The run rate keeps on mounting after such slow starts and adds pressure; we need to figure that out. We need to come back with a clearer picture, looking at the combination,” admitted captain MS Dhoni after the match. Dhoni had expressed his disappointment with the top order in the previous match as well.
The more things change, the more they remain the same for CSK
Sam Curran and Josh Hazlewood (who replaced Lungi Ngidi)’s combined effort of 8 overs for just 55 runs perhaps didn’t allow Delhi to post a total near 200 but even a chase of 175 was too much for this struggling batting order.
Dhoni is not known for too much experiment and generally trusts his team-mates and process but he, too, seems to be feeling a little uncomfortable with two back-to-back defeats, something his team hadn’t faced while chasing since 2013.
“I don't think it was a good game for us. Maybe, the team balance will get better once Rayudu comes back in the next game. That will give us the room to experiment with an extra bowler perhaps. There are quite a few things we can think about. We are one batter extra to start off, so the players need to step up. We need to get better with our lengths, lines and pace,” Dhoni went on to explain the defeat.
The one-sided spin battle
If Delhi included Amit Mishra (the second most successful spinner in IPL history) in place of R Ashwin, CSK persisted with leg-spinner Piyush Chawla (and still didn’t play Imran Tahir, last season’s most accomplished bowler!) after a bad game. While Mishra was excellently complemented by Axar Patel’s left-arm spin, CSK’s most trusted left-arm over the years once again leaked the runs in plenty.
Shockingly, Jadeja alone conceded more runs in his four overs (44) without a wicket, Mishra-Patel duo just gave away 39 runs and grabbed the crucial wicket of Watson.
“Axar bowled really well and has been economical. Mishra is really a skillful bowler and they controlled the middle overs and that gave us the opportunity to strangle at the death,” said DC pacer Kagiso Rabada after taking the purple cap from the Kings XI Punjab’s Mohammed Shami.
On the other hand, Dhoni didn’t mince his words that he was not happy with the seasoned spinners’ performance. “I think the spinners have not come to the party yet. We are bowling good deliveries, but we are giving away the boundary deliveries bit too often,” said Dhoni of his spin-attack in the match.
This time Dhoni did come at number 6 but…
After last match’s polarizing debate on his batting position, this time Dhoni did come at number 6 yet the situation had gone out of his control by then as Chennai needed 76 runs off 26 balls.
Delhi may have got a bit lucky in the first game against KXIP when they managed to win in the Super over but this time the opening batters and bowlers ensured back-to-back wins which no other team has tasted so far. “The way the openers started gave us a lot of confidence and the finish was good too. I am lucky to have KG and Nortje in the team. It's important to stick together as a team and we need to enjoy each other's success,” said DC captain Shreyas Iyer after the match
Rabada looked in ‘purple touch’ again
South African pacer Rabada took three wickets in the match (as many Chennai managed in entire innings!) and that also tells a tale!
(Vimal Kumar is a senior sports journalist who has covered multiple cricket world cups and Rio Olympics in the last two decades. Vimal is also the author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century and The Cricket Fanatic’s Essential Guide.)