Business as usual for Chennai Super Kings as IPL returns to India
For the Kolkata Knight Riders, the JSCA International Cricket Stadium in Ranchi was their second ‘home’ ground last year after Eden Gardens, and they must have been thanking their lucky stars that they didn’t have to face MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings there last season.
KKR are back in Ranchi again, but this time as the away side, and although geographically Chennai and Ranchi are far apart, at heart, the people of Ranchi have only one team they support.
That team is led by the man from this city, the man who has put Ranchi on the cricketing map, Ranchi’s favourite son Mahendra Singh Dhoni. There is absolutely no doubt that the Chennai Super Kings will receive vociferous support because Dhoni has captivated the masses in Jharkhand, right from the time when the tiny Keenan Stadium in Jamshedpur played host to an India-England ODI, where Dhoni opened and blasted a 95, to the most recent game, in the CLT20 where Dhoni smashed an unbeaten 63 off 19 balls.
Tonight, the party will be on in Ranchi because IPL is all set to resume with its India leg, and Dhoni will be in Ranchi with his all-conquering Super Kings. Only Glenn Maxwell has managed to stop the Super Kings so far, but Chennai have notched up four wins on the bounce following that.
While there have been repeated calling for the inclusion of Samuel Badree in the playing eleven, Chennai haven’t changed their eleven for the last four games. The bowling has been a revelation, with CSK restricting their opposition to less than 150 in all 4 games since the Maxwell assault. Ishwar Pandey and Ben Hilfenhaus have bowled well with the new ball, Ravichandran Ashwin has been steady as ever, and Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Smith and Suresh Raina have chipped in and performed their roles to perfection as well.
But arguably, CSK’s best bowler this IPL has been Haryana’s Mohit Sharma. After a brilliant IPL in 2013, Mohit was given the India call-up, and he exhibited rather indifferent form there. But this year in the IPL, Mohit has taken on a different role. Last year, he used to be the bowler whom Dhoni relied upon to keep it tight in the powerplay overs, but now, Mohit seems to be the designated death bowler for CSK.
The slower one out of the back of the hand has worked like a dream for Mohit, and he has managed to add the yorker to his repertoire which is helping him immensely. That he is joint second on the highest wicket takers list, is testament to how well he has bowled in this tournament so far.
But conditions in the UAE were slightly more pacer friendly than they will be in India. There will be hardly any swing or seam considering that we are in the peak of summer, and Mohit will have to rely on all those variations to have similar results on Indian wickets.
CSK’s strength, their batting, has not quite hit top gear yet, and that is frightening, if you support any other team. While Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum have repeatedly got them off to brilliant starts, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis and Dhoni himself have not been their usual selves. As the India leg begins, one can only imagine that the batter friendly conditions can help them kickstart their season.
For long, the bowling has been their Achilles Heel, but for four games in a row, Chennai’s bowling has been steady, and the openers have done the job with the bat. They are yet to fire as a collective batting unit since the first game, and if that happens, they are capable of scoring at improbable run rates.
For Chennai Super Kings, it is business as usual.