In the first three matches of the inaugural IPL in 2008, if CSK looked irresistibly dominant, it was only because of the commanding presence of Mathew Hayden. Though CSK looked a bit susceptible later in the tournament once Hayden left for his national duty, they could muster a few wins hither and thither in the remaining matches which were enough for them to enter the semifinals. No doubt the first three matches, which they won because of Hayden, came in handy for them then to remain in the tournament till the end.
In season 2 of the IPL, it was an all-Hayden show for CSK. The batsman, who comes next only to Vivian Richards when it comes to sheer arrogance in dispatching the ball to all the corners of the park, was the backbone of Super kings batting line up for 2 years. In the third IPL though, Hayden’s contribution was a bit topsy-turvy as his imperious form from the previous two years dipped.
The Super Kings, who once swam to safety in matches due to the dominance which Hayden exhibited, have been deprived of a quality opener ever since his departure from the tournament. The intrepid lefty used to bully the bowlers by walking down the wicket and upsetting their rhythm at will. The carnage that he used to create, batting as an opener for CSK, was mind blowing. Since batsmen of Hayden’s class are born once in a millennium, CSK was found wanting in getting an apt replacement for him, at least in the IPL of 2011.
Having tried many openers last year and finally settling on Michael Hussey for one of the two slots, the non-availability of Hussey for the first few matches of this year’s IPL for the side came as a bolt out of the blue for them. It led to them trying a South African this time around in the absence of “Mr.Cricket”. This was a little-known player from the Safari called Francois du Plessis. But as it turns out, du Plessis seems to fulfil the role of a vintage T20 opener perfectly.
In fact, I feel with the style of play that he has, he can very much be hailed as the next Hayden for CSK. The attacking intent he displays against bowlers of international class is his signature ability. He is well built and looks physically strong as he looks to clobbers the ball right from the word ‘go’. The balls seem to sail past the ropes when he hits them with sheer effortlessness. A strong positive about du Plessis’s batting is that it is not all about slogging. He times the ball perfectly and also has the ability to hit shots all along the ground in a risk free manner, much like Hayden.
His contribution in the last two matches has been truly remarkable. He gave a good start against RCB and that was the reason CSK was able to be consistently in the hunt towards the target. Even yesterday, CSK looked set to pile up a huge score against Pune Warriors until he was at the crease. On the whole, if you have to single out one performance by a CSK batsman in the previous two matches, not undermining the last-minute outburst of Albe Morkal against RCB, it has to the knock of du Plessis in that same match.
du Plessis seems to be the mainstay of the CSK batting now. He barely takes a look at the bowling attack before going about doing his business of scoring runs at a furious pace. He looks quite confident while going after the bowling. He is seen to be dictating terms irrespective of the bowlers’ reputation. Sure, he may slip every once in a while, the way he did yesterday when he was foxed by Rahul Sharma, but even a brief stay by him at the crease would bode well for his team.
It is probably still to early to decide whether he will fit into Hayden’s shoes, but for now he certainly does look the part. He is not afraid of getting down the wicket to the faster bowlers which speaks of his self belief, and also it reminds us of the Australian legend playing for CSK.
The Super Kings are a bit rusty in this IPL with most of their batsmen seemingly short on confidence. But du Plessis has been the standout performer, scoring runs consistently, which may prove crucial to the team’s fortunes. Perhaps in a couple of matches things will will into place for the defending champions and if du Plessis continues to do well then they will be tougher to beat.
Already du Plessis has got the orange cap, which indicates the highest run scorer of the tournament at any given point of time. Hayden himself had the experience of wearing it in 2009 for a long time. Maybe in this year’s IPL, du Plessis would be wearing it till the end. Of course, there is every chance that Rahane, playing for Rajasthan Royals, gets back the orange cap today but the South African, the way he is going, is good enough to retrieve it even if he does lose it today. When Mike Hussey comes back to CSK from West Indies, he might just get a feel that his place in the playing XI has already been snatched.
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