Game no. 34, CSK vs DC, Sharjah
Brief scores: Delhi Capitals 185/5, Shikhar Dhawan 101*, Deepak Chahar 2/18 beat Chennai Super Kings 179/4, Faf du Plessis 58, Andre Nortje 2/44 by 5 wickets
Position in the points table: DC – 1 (14 pts), CSK – 6 (6 pts)
Teams in IPL have mystery bowlers. Chennai Super Kings, on the other hand, is a team full of mysteries. Kedar Jadhav made a reappearance in the starting XI – the graphic at the toss being the only place he made an appearance in the game, leaving everyone wondering why he was even picked if Jadeja was sent in to bat ahead of him. MS Dhoni and CSK continue to keep faith in Shane Watson and DJ Bravo, though their returns are diminishing match after match. CSK need to win every game to keep their hopes of making to the playoffs alive and when they were within touching distance of victory, fitness and a lack of back-up left them stranded on the wrong side of the finish line.
Dropped catches don’t win matches
CSK began their defense perfectly getting rid of Prithvi Shaw and Ajinkya Rahane quickly, gaining an upper hand. When CSK could have converted this into a strangle-hold, Deepak Chahar shelled Dhawan’s offer when he was on 25. Dhawan was at his charitable best, giving many more chances but CSK’s fielders reciprocated his charity in kind – dropping every one of four chances. Dhawan was done going bust and went boom-boom. And with that, went CSK’s 2 crucial points.
Taking experience to its illogical end
Experience won CSK the IPL trophy in 2018. Experience took CSK to the finals in IPL 2019. In IPL 2020, CSK seems to be taking experience to its illogical end. Barring the one game vs Kings XI Punjab, Watson has been nowhere close to the buccaneer opener he has been famous for. Just when he seemed to switch gears to accelerate, the opposition bowlers have found a way to get him out. And with him not bowling this season, his below-par batting has only highlighted CSK’s misery. Bravo is the other side of this coin – often held back while batting. Sporadic performances with the ball haven’t helped CSK’s cause either. The million dollar question every CSK fan has right now is will CSK’s and Dhoni’s persistence with Watson and Bravo cost them a spot in the playoffs?
Can CSK make if the play-offs this year?
Mathematically, CSK’s chances of making to the play-offs still exist. But to have any chance, CSK and Dhoni would need to take a couple of tough calls. CSK needs to find a way to play Imran Tahir. The devil is in the team balance. With Tahir swapping positions with Bravo, CSK would gain a wicket taking option, but also lose a death bowler. This would force CSK to bring in Josh Hazelwood and the only overseas player he can be swapped for is Watson. This might restore the team balance to a large extent but there would be pressure on Faf du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu and Dhoni to shoulder the batting.
Having gifted the 2 points to DC, CSK cannot afford to have any more off-days. Whether they stick with the same XI or make changes, CSK do not have the luxury of making mistakes. Catches cannot be dropped, 2s cannot become 1s and if hit in the air, the ball would need to land beyond the ropes. Anything less, CSK can bid goodbye to the playoffs and head home, sober. And of course, much more experienced.
Whom they play next:
CSK: vs Rajasthan Royals, 19-Oct, Abu Dhabi
DC: vs Kings XI Punjab, 20-Oct, Dubai Sports Club (DSC), Dubai