Chennai Super Kings have an excellent chance of going the full distance in this Champions League T20. There are many reasons as to why I would put my money on them, such as:
- Lasith Malinga is absent in the Mumbai Indians squad and their team can get into a state of disarray while trying to replace him.
- Sunrisers Hyderabad will be battling against the odds in trying to overcome the stumbling blocks on surfaces alien to those that brought them so much success in their debut season.
- The Australian teams do not look threatening enough, unlike, say, New South Wales.
- The weird rules that make sure Trinidad and Tobago always get robbed of their best players play right into the hands of CSK.
- Otago Volts are a pretty good outfit and have a great opportunity to end up as one of the semifinalists. But then, they will likely run out of gas eventually as I don’t see their bowlers, apart from Neil Wagner and Ian Butler, holding up.
It is not like the Super Kings do not have any competitors though. Both the South African teams do have the ability to give CSK a run for their money, especially the Highveld Lions.
In Rajasthan Royals, boosted by the presence of Shane Watson, Brad Hodge’s deadly finishing skills and James Faulkner’s potency when it comes to bowling upfront and at the death, they have a potential threat to the crown. But more than all of that, the fact that the Royals are captained by Rahul Dravid and coached by Paddy Upton, a duo that is bringing back the lost glories of what top notch strategical moves and captaincy can add to this beautiful game that is increasingly becoming monotonous with utterly disgraceful defensive tactics, is what makes them a real force.
That said, if CSK close down a couple of loopholes in their game-play, even Rajasthan Royals would find it difficult to break them down.
Here is what I think they would need to do to shut down any opportunities for the other teams in the tournament.
MS Dhoni and his duel with number 4:
Four – it’s the number that will likely have everything to do with what transpires for the Chennai Super Kings in this edition of CLT20. To be more precise, I mean the number four spot in the batting order. Much hinges on how Mahendra Singh Dhoni goes about it.
CSK lost a total of six matches, including the finals against Mumbai Indians, in the 2013 Indian Premier League. In five of the six matches, Dhoni did not come in at number four. Out of the 12 victories they notched up, one was by a nine-wicket (batting first) margin and another a ten-wicket victory, which meant the number four batsman did not come into the scene.
Of the remaining ten wins, seven times Dhoni had come in at a position where he should always be coming at game in game out – number four. CSK needed a 20-ball 38 against RCB and 14-ball 36 against KKR from Ravindra Jadeja to see them home in two of the remaining three matches.
If you are of the belief that knocks such as those can be expected to bail out your team, you can stop reading this now. But I would always like more certainty.
So only one time in 18 games did CSK manage to escape unscathed with Dhoni coming in at No. 5 or below. Still, the captain loves coming down the order.
Let us analyse his exploits in T20 internationals for India.
It would be an understatement to say that Dhoni has not done justice to his talents in international T20s. To put it bluntly, he has been a flop in this version of the game for India. In 39 innings, he has scored 748 runs at an average of 31.14, heavily boosted by 15 not outs, and a below-par strike rate of 114.90.
It is difficult to fathom how a batsman of Dhoni’s stature does not have a fifty in international T20s. It all comes down to the fact that in 30 of those 39 innings, he has batted at number 5 or below.
His poor record has led to a myth that he cannot perform in international T20s. But if he promotes himself up the order, it could be a different story altogether. He has reduced the effect that he can have by coming way too down the order.
While that discussion can wait for another day, the reason I brought it forward was to show that Dhoni could be a vital cog to a T20 team at number 4. If I were an opposition captain, I would gladly take every ball that is not faced by Dhoni after the 12th over of the innings.
The basic idea behind it is that Dhoni should be at the crease at any cost after the 12th over. Big hitters need a good look-in to launch their innings. It is unfair to expect them to go berserk in the last three overs otherwise.
I do understand his fears of leaving the likes of Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja and Chris Morris lower down to do the finishing in case the top order fails. And that is where the next issue surfaces. But I believe even that loophole can be filled. All that is required is to remove Murali Vijay from the playing eleven.