Chennai Super Kings (CSK) made a great comeback in the Indian Premier League (IPL) registering their second win on the trot after starting their campaign with a loss against the Delhi Capitals . Both their victories against Punjab Kings and Rajasthan Royals came in resounding fashion as their bowlers came to the fore with magnificent performances.
Although Chennai’s bowling has taken them home on a couple of occasions, their batting has not been up to the mark. There is a lot of scope for improvement, especially in the initial phase of the innings.
Chennai possesses great batting depth. But they have been too slow to get out of the blocks, which has restricted their total by 15 odd runs both times they batted first this season. On a batting-friendly Wankhede pitch, they took 15.4 overs to chase down Punjab's paltry total of 107 owing to their slow start.
Batting in Powerplay has been an issue plaguing Chennai Super Kings since IPL 2020
In IPL 2021, Chennai’s powerplay scores against DC, PBKS, and RR were 33/2, 32/1, and 46/2 respectively. Despite a slow start, they managed to reach 188/7 versus Delhi, courtesy of a cameo from Sam Curran in the final overs. However, Delhi chased down the target with ease as Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw struck attacking half-centuries. The cautious approach did not hurt them in the second match as they were chasing a low total.
In their latest match against Rajasthan, Faf du Plessis played a brisk knock of 33 off just 17 deliveries. But little support from the other end meant CSK could not maximize their advantage in the powerplay overs.
Batting in powerplay has been an issue plaguing Chennai since the previous edition of the tournament. Their average score in the first six overs has been just 42/2 since the start of 2020. The ‘Men in Yellow’ have been able to breach the 50-run mark in the powerplay overs on just four out of the 17 occasions. This directly put an added burden on the middle order to score quickly. Consequently, in 2020, Chennai failed to qualify for the IPL playoffs for the first time since its inception.
As such, it would not be a bad idea if Chennai opted for a pinch-hitter of Sunil Narine's mould in the powerplay overs. With Ruturaj Gaikwad not looking in good nick, it would be prudent to give him a break or push him down the order. Instead, CSK can open their batting with a bowler capable of big-hitting. The pinch-hitter would have a license to go big from the very first ball.
Shardul Thakur is a candidate who fits that role perfectly.
Why Shardul Thakur?
Shardul Thakur has been a revelation for Team India in the current international season. Not only has he shone with the ball but he has also delivered vital performances with the bat. Be it a cameo of 10 runs in just four balls in the fourth T20I against England at Ahmedabad, or the 30-run knock off 21 balls in the third ODI at Pune, Shardul has impressed with his ability to tonk the ball.
In addition to performing well at home, the Palghar-based cricketer has shown composure in pressure situations in Australia as well. He played a mature knock of 67 on a tough Gabba wicket.
Shardul is equally effective against pace and spin. He is a clean striker of the ball and can derive maximum benefits from fielding restrictions in the powerplay overs. He can go big immediately after coming to the crease and can take the pressure off his batting partners. With great depth in Chennai’s batting order, Shardul would bat with freedom and not need to worry about preserving his wicket. If he does open the batting, Chennai could also explore the option of accommodating an extra bowler in their playing XI.