Chennai Super Kings settle for being second best.....again
Chennai Super Kings are the most consistent team in the Indian Premier League. The fact that they have qualified for the playoffs in each of the 8 IPL seasons, and reached the finals on six occasions out of eight, is a proof of their supremacy over the other teams. However, they have lost in the finals four times out of six which might just force us to tag them as ‘Chokers’.
In this season of the IPL, CSK locked horns against the Mumbai Indians in the final at Kolkata in what was a repeat of the 2013 summit clash, but they failed to get past the final hurdle yet again. Even though they were the first team to qualify for the playoffs and top the table, they were not at their best throughout the season.
Despite having a poor away record, the yellow army managed to win almost all of their home games. The fact that they finished at top-two on the table, gave them two shots at the final and Dhoni's boys, on the second attempt, beat the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the second qualifier and made it to the finals against MI.
One of the biggest positives in this season for CSK was their bowling. Dwayne Bravo was sensational for them as he managed to scalp 26 wickets at an average of 16.38 in the tournament which helped him win the Purple Cap. He came into the attack predominantly at the death overs and pick quick wickets to slow down the runs.
Another bowler who was brilliant for CSK this season was veteran left-arm pacer Ashish Nehra who bowled fast and swung the ball both ways and troubled a lot of batsman. Nehra was used upfront and also at the death by Dhoni. He took 22 wickets in 16 games at a decent economy rate of 7.24.
Brendon McCullum had a great World Cup 2015 and he continued his good run of form in the IPL as well as he amassed 436 runs in 14 matches with a terrific strike rate. He scored a brilliant 100* against the Sunrisers Hyderabad and managed a couple of fifties late in the tournament. Dwayne Smith despite being off colour provided a solid partnership with Brendon at times. The duo shared a hundred run partnership and two fifty partnerships this season.
CSK have focused a lot on fielding over the years and this year was no different. Fielders like Dwayne Bravo, Faf Du Plessis, Brendon McCullum Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja ensured that the opposition batsmen have to work hard to get their runs. There have also been some exceptional catches taken by these fielders this year and Bravo was awarded for the catch he took off Shane Watson against the Rajasthan Royals.
One of the biggest set-backs for CSK this season was the poor performance of the regular Indian players who have been the back-bone of the team since the first season. Suresh Raina was a big let-down for the team this time around as he did not score too many runs with the bat. This is the first time that Raina scored below 400 runs in a single season of the IPL. Coming at No. 3, he was expected to bat through the innings and fire in the final few overs but his failure to do led to a poor performance in the playoffs.
Captain MS Dhoni also did not set the stage on fire this time around. He seemed to be eating up too many deliveries at the start and was unable to get quick runs when the team needed it. Similar was the case with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja who had a below-par IPL season with the bat as well as the ball. Due to his poor form, Dhoni was forced to bring in Pawan Negi who bowled pretty well and played some important cameos at the end of the innings for CSK. Ravichandran Ashwin had a decent outing as he was economical with the ball but he failed to lead the much known spin-attack of CSK.
Chennai won six out of the seven games they played at their home ground, Chepauk, which suits their style of play. Their away record had been very poor as they lost six games out of ten that they played away from Chepauk. They would certainly like to address it before the next season.
The fact that Brendon McCullum could not feature in the playoffs, as he had to join the New Zealand squad for the tour of England, proved to be huge blow for CSK as he was their in-form batsman this season. His replacement, Michael Hussey, could not do much at the start of the innings which led to their loss in the finals.
What to expect in IPL 2016?
The Chennai Super Kings are usually heavily dependent on the Indian players. Unfortunately they did not fire this time around, apart from a few, which might just force the team management to look for fresh Indian players, especially batsman who can be impactful.
The team management might just look for a genuine leg-spinner which would add a lot of value to their team considering the fact that Ashwin and Jadeja have not played to their potential. CSK were lucky that Nehra bowled so well this season, but then they need to look for a fast bowler who can generate a bit of pace and bounce from any sort of wicket.
Apart from these changes, the franchise would not look to tinker with the team too much as they have been a consistent bunch since the inception of the IPL. One department in which they really need to improve is stepping up in the big games. They certainly wouldn’t want to lose another final in the near future.