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IPL 2021: From being down and out in the past year to scripting a new chapter, the rise of CSK

MS Dhoni walks on to the field leading the Chennai Super Kings.
MS Dhoni walks on to the field leading the Chennai Super Kings.
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 22 Apr 2021
Feature

Six months after finishing seventh in Indian Premier League (IPL 2020) points table, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have bounced back in emphatic fashion this time around.

After their third successive win at the Wankhede, the boys in Yellow are back at the top of the points table, post a cliffhanger against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).

After losing eight games and finishing second from bottom at IPL 2020, most teams would have rung in massive changes to the dynamics of the squad.

However, with MS Dhoni at the helm, the team has one of the most astute brains in the cricketing world. The man himself, and the franchise as a whole, is known to give players a considerable run of matches to prove themselves.

Decoding the reason behind CSK's domination

Shane Watson in action for the CSK.
Shane Watson in action for the CSK.

The sight of Shane Watson battling it out for the team with a bleeding knee in the summit clash against the Mumbai Indians, in 2019, is still etched in the fans' memory.

The Australian did not have a great run in the lead up to the finals, but the management and the team persisted with him. Not only did he take the side closer to victory, but he also defied the odds to play through the pain for a team that believed in him during difficult times.

Solving the opening conundrum

Ruturaj Gaikwad struggled with the bat in the first three games.
Ruturaj Gaikwad struggled with the bat in the first three games.

While the team has performed exceedingly well in the last couple of games in this edition of the tournament, the opening conundrum was yet to be solved as Ruturaj Gaikwad struggled to find his mojo in the first three games of the season.

With a string of low scores in the lead up to the game against the Knight Riders, many cricketing pundits believed there was a need for a change at the top of the order.

With Robin Uthappa waiting in the wings for CSK, the pressure was well and truly on Gaikwad to find some form coming into this game.

Runs galore at the Wankhede

The opening combination for CSK.
The opening combination for CSK.

On a wicket known to be a batting paradise and the dew factor expected to play a crucial role in the second innings, Eoin Morgan won the toss and elected to field. And, as CSK's opening batters took centre stage, all eyes were on the 24-year-old from Pune.

Known for his attacking style of play, Gaikwad started the innings steadily in the first couple of overs. His opening partnership with Faf du Plessis was the epitome of batsmanship as the duo then put up 115 for the first wicket, setting up a solid foundation for CSK.

Accumulating ones and twos, they crafted their way through the field restrictions in the powerplay. However, what followed later was a pure exhibition of attractive stroke play from the youngster as he recorded his first half-century of the season.

If it were any other team, a string of low scores would have resulted in the right-handed batsman being dropped from the Playing XI. However, that is not the case with CSK, a team known to trust their players' abilities and support them all through bad patches of form.

His crucial 42-ball 64 helped his team score a mammoth 220 runs, repaying the management's faith in him.

Mayhem during the run chase

Deepak Chahar in action for CSK.
Deepak Chahar in action for CSK.

The Knight Riders came into this all-important clash after twin defeats while chasing in their last two games in Chennal.

Despite the surface in Mumbai being conducive for batting, chasing 221 for the win was never going to be easy. CSK skipper MS Dhoni has time and again relied heavily on Deepak Chahar and this game wasn no different.

The 28-year-old has been instrumental in picking up early wickets right through the competition. His ability to swing the ball and his immense control makes him a lethal bowler upfront.

Chahar ran through the Knight Riders' batting order, scalping four crucial wickets in the first six overs to jolt the opposition. While his four wickets showcased his bowling abilities, Chahar's rise started in the game against the Punjab Kings.

After being on the receiving end in the opening match against the Delhi Capitals, Chahar bounced back in emphatic fashion to pick up four wickets for 13 runs in his spell against the Punjab outfit.

His exploits with the ball helped CSK restrict the opposition to a below-par score of 106 in the first innings. The match was instrumental in the pace bowler getting back into rhythm, also helping the team register their first win in the competition.

With the KKR game ending in a nail-biter thanks to some fine performances from the Knights' lower-middle order, CSK just about recorded their third IPL win on the trot.

The victory also takes the team back to the top of the table, a position that CSK will be more accustomed to. MS Dhoni's men will hope to keep their newfound form going throughout this tournament.

Published 22 Apr 2021
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