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We have been used to one thing in the Indian Premier League ever since its inception in 2008. Chennai Super Kings, led by MS Dhoni, would qualify for the play-offs in every single edition with their dominant display with both bat and ball. It gave birth to a meme which stated, “All teams fight it out with each other only to play/lose to Chennai Super Kings in the final.” In IPL 2020, it was expected that the trend would continue. Chennai Super Kings would dominate the league stages and then the fight for the remaining three places would be a mad scramble between the remaining seven teams.
However, the year 2020 has been unprecedented in a lot of ways. It has been unpredictable and unimaginable. The same has been played out in IPL 2020. Chennai Super Kings, the three-time IPL champions, are now on the cusp of not making it to the play-offs for the first time in their history after yet another shoddy performance against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Kaveri Derby clash in Dubai.
With only four points from seven games, it is now imperative that the first half of the IPL 2020 has been a disaster for Chennai Super Kings. Now, they have to play with inspiration and hope for miracles in the second half of the tournament, very much similar to IPL 2010. So, what has plagued Chennai Super Kings this year? What has been the prime reason for Chennai Super Kings dismal performance in the first half?
Dismal batting in all phases at different times
Jog your memory back to the game against Rajasthan Royals. They had started well in the powerplay but in the middle overs, they managed just 37 runs in seven overs. In a chase of over 200, scoring at just over five runs is criminal.
In the game against Delhi Capitals, they managed just 34 runs in the first six overs of the powerplay and against Sunrisers Hyderabad, they scored 36 and lost three wickets. Against Kolkata Knight Riders, they managed only 28 runs in four overs at the death.
In each of the games that Chennai Super Kings have lost, they have lost momentum either in the powerplay or in the middle overs and that has exposed a fatal flaw in MS Dhoni’s blueprint which has been exposed after 12 years.
No finishing intent
In every single edition of the IPL, MS Dhoni and the Chennai Super Kings has followed a particular blueprint. Dhoni, in his typical finishing avatar, would take the game deep into the final over or the final ball and take their opponents off guard with an assault. It worked well for many editions, but in 2020, teams now expect what Chennai Super Kings will do.
In every game that they have lost, because the batting crumbled either in the powerplay or predominantly in the middle overs, Chennai Super Kings and their skipper has continuously misjudged when to kick on the finishing gears.
Against Kolkata Knight Riders, the move to promote Kedar Jadhav and his misjudgment did not help Chennai Super Kings. Against Delhi Capitals, Dhoni could not get his finishing mojo because the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje bowled brilliantly. Against Sunrisers Hyderabad, there was too much to do and Dhoni felt tired due to the excess running.
Even when Bhuvneshwar Kumar was injured and a part-timer in Abdul Samad was used, Chennai Super Kings simply had a massive run-rate to cope with which ensured that they fell short.
Even against Royal Challengers Bangalore, scoring just over 40 runs in the first eight overs was enough to put them behind the game big time. Ambati Rayudu and Narayan Jagadeesan tried but as asking rate of 13, and with bowlers knowing how to bounce back and also having thorough plans to tackle Chennai Super Kings’ blueprint in the death, it was going to be an uphill task.
The IPL 2020 campaign of Chennai Super Kings is very similar to IPL 2010. In that tournament, they lost five out of their first seven games and their campaign looked over. However, Dhoni inspired a magnificent turnaround and Chennai Super Kings won the next five out of seven games to not only reach the knock-outs but win the title for the first time.
A decade later, the situation is similar. The main question this time is – Can Dhoni do it again?