The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have had a disastrous start to the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2020), and are currently rooted to the bottom of the points table with only 1 win from 4 games.
Their victory in the IPL 2020 season opener against the Mumbai Indians now seems like eons ago, and in what is a very un-CSK like phenomenon, captain MS Dhoni has rung in changes in every game. Some of these alterations in personnel may have been due to injuries to Ambati Rayudu and Dwayne Bravo, but it is no secret that they have struggled to find the right combination.
Despite the maelstrom of doubt and uncertainty that surrounds CSK, and the compromising position that they find themselves in, there is a degree of calm surrounding the team. The main reason behind this is the man at the epicentre of the storm, Dhoni himself.
And after being one bowler short for the first three games, Dhoni finally managed to settle on a fairly balanced side that took to the field against the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). However, while the CSK playing XI that locked horns with SRH certainly was well-rounded, the same issue that has plagued them for quite a few seasons now came back to haunt them - momentum while batting.
Murali Vijay was sacrificed for his inability to get going, but against SRH, CSK were 36/3 at the end of the powerplay and soon collapsed further to 42/4. Shane Watson was a shadow of the man who destroyed the same opposition in the 2018 IPL final, and the decision to promote the in-form Faf du Plessis to an opening slot didn't bear fruit due to a run out.
But CSK's problems are quite easy to address, and here's one simple change that they can incorporate to get their campaign back on track.
Sam Curran should open the innings for CSK in IPL 2020
Sam Curran walked in to bat against SRH with 51 runs required off 14 balls and a struggling MS Dhoni - who was on 24 off 27 - at the other end. The first ball that he faced was a short one aimed right at the temple, and he crunched a pull, sending the ball into the top tier.
Off the last ball of the innings, the 22-year-old waltzed down the track to cart leg-spinner Abdul Samad over his head to finish on an unbeaten 15 off 5. We might only have very small sample sizes, but a few things are abundantly clear about Sam Curran's batting.
One - he has the ability to go from ball one; Two - he is capable of playing the big shots against both quality spin and pace; and Three - he has a fearless head on his young shoulders. This is, of course, apart from the fact that Sam Curran is a southpaw.
This leads us to believe that the young Englishman should open the batting for CSK in IPL 2020, and his promotion to the top of the order would fix a number of other issues collaterally.
The indirect impact of Sam Curran opening the innings
Du Plessis does take his time to get in, and Curran opening would reduce some of the pressure on Watson. The former South African captain could then drop down to No. 3, which was the position from which he scored two fifties in CSK's first two IPL 2020 games.
In turn, this would mean that the struggling Kedar Jadhav wouldn't have to bat at the infamous No. 4 role, and Ambati Rayudu could attempt to fulfil the destiny that once awaited him in the Indian cricket team.
Jadhav might still not be suited to a position in the lower middle order, but the truth is that CSK simply don't have a choice. The absence of Suresh Raina means that they are without a third spin option in their playing XI, and although the stocky all-rounder has never bowled a ball in the IPL, he is the next best bet.
When the tracks slow down in the latter half of IPL 2020, Jadhav will have a role to play for CSK and the team must ensure that he is ready when the time comes. By no means are the No. 5 and No. 6 positions easy to decipher, given MS Dhoni's struggles with the bat. However, the former Indian captain is still the right man for the job, and should be backed to come good at the earliest.
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Sam Curran simply must bat higher up the order, and there are no two ways about it
Irrespective of who bats in the middle order for CSK, it is clear that Sam Curran is being wasted when deployed there. The all-rounder is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale CSK side, and his youthful exuberance is something that cannot be misused in such disheartening fashion.
Curran cannot bat at No. 7 like he did against SRH, and he promised enough in the cameos that he played earlier in IPL 2020 while batting slightly higher in the order. He has been touted as a player who will eventually morph into a batting all-rounder for quite some years now, and that transformation is on the cusp of happening.
There is very sound logic as to why Sam Curran should open the innings for CSK in IPL 2020, but even he doesn't, there are no two ways about the fact that he simply must bat higher up the order. CSK have shown a clear aversion towards wavering from the tried-and-tested tactics that have won them 3 IPL titles, but they are now in an unprecedented situation that calls for drastic change.
MS Dhoni has spoken about 'momentum' so many times in recent press conferences, and the answer to this problem is staring him right in the face. The answer is 22 years old, plays for England and is a left-arm seam-bowling all-rounder.
Published 04 Oct 2020, 10:00 IST