CSK has now played 7 games and are ranked 7th with 2 wins and 5 losses in IPL 2020.
A team that has emerged victorious thrice and always qualified for the semi-finals or playoffs are second from the bottom at the half-way mark. Their impeccable record displayed below is in danger.
- 2010, 2011, 2018 – (Champions), 2008, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2019 (Runners Up), 2009, 2014 (3rd)
From the golden days from 2008-2015 to the Dad’s Old Army comeback win in 2018, CSK have managed to find a way. After the pandemic and subsequent international retirements of MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina, something just does not feel right this time around.
Apart for Faf du Plessis’s acrobatics and consistency at the top of the order and the revelation in Sam Curran, nothing is going right for the Chennai Super Kings. Even Ravindra Jadeja is dropping catches and missing direct hits.
Let us find out why.
After the 7th game, here are 7 Reasons Why CSK Are Struggling.Embed from Getty Images
1. CSK Prepared for Chennai
Chennai went into the IPL 2020 auction with the MA Chidambaram Stadium (Chepauk) in mind. The pitches at this ground are known to be slow and turning.
At the 2020 IPL auction, CSK acquired Piyush Chawla (leg spinner) and R Sai Kishore (left arm orthodox) to bolster their already strong squad of spinners:
Imran Tahir, Mitchell Santner, Ravindra Jadeja, Karn Sharma, Harbhajan Singh along with Kedar Jadhav and Suresh Raina
Although Sam Curran and Josh Hazlewood were strong buys, CSK are currently lacking middle order stability and varied fast bowling options on these UAE pitches.
Some of the players they released? Mohit Sharma, Scott Kuggeleijn, David Willey and Sam Billings.
2. Harbhajan and Raina
Before the tournament started, concerns of the bio-secure bubble in CSK’s camp jolted their preparation.
What are we missing here? Let the stats tell you the story:
Raina: 193 matches, 5368 runs, best of 100*, 1-100/38-50s, and the arguably best IPL inning of all time.
Harbhajan: 160 matches, 150 wickets (5th highest), 7.05 economy, best of 5/18
Suresh Raina has been the best batsman in the IPL and an icon for CSK. CSK are missing a left-right combination at the top, a part-time spinner, and a wonderful fielder.
Without his services, CSK are clearly struggling.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
Ambati Rayudu had led CSK to victory in the opening game with an unbeaten 71. A hamstring injury ruled him for the next couple of games, which further exposed CSK’s brittle middle order.
Add to that Dwayne Bravo’s knee injury that kept him out of the first five games, CSK really did not have much of a squad to play with.
Without four of their key players for the majority of the first 5 games, it is not difficult to see why CSK are in the current position.
4. Lack of Gametime
In March, the world stopped and so did cricket.
Courtesy England, cricket restarted in the middle of the summer. England, West Indies (international and CPL), Pakistan, Ireland, and Australia had all played some cricket.
Rajasthan Royals have Jos Buttler, Steven Smith, Jofra Archer, Tom Curran, and now Ben Stokes – all having played intense international cricket for the past few months.
CSK is just another story. Sam Curran and Josh Hazlewood (common theme, isn’t it?) are the only two players with decent domestic and international cricket behind them.
Most of the other players have retired from international cricket or domestic cricket. Players like Watson only play IPL and PSL in the entire year.
Dhoni has not played since that run-out. Yes, that one. You know exactly what I am talking about.
- Dhoni’s previous game before the IPL? 9 July 2019
- Ambati Rayudu? 17 November 2019
- Murali Vijay, just a tad better. 9 December 2019
- Kedar Jadhav – played 2 ODI’s in February 2020 with returns of 26*(15) and a patchy 9 (27) against New Zealand. Before that 25 December 2019.
That was 4 of CSK’s top 6 at one point. Just digest that for a second.
The other one in top 6 being Shane Watson, who except for one innings, has looked out of sorts.
509 T20 wickets and 6331 runs. What a player.
Dwayne Bravo’s designated role is to be the death overs bowler and lower order finisher for CSK.
He was one of the players expected to be in rhythm with some game time under his belt from the CPL. What actually happened?
He sustained a knee injury in the later stages of the CPL with TKR’s unbeaten run to the top. He was in the team in the final but did not bat or ball.
Hence he missed the first few games for CSK. So apart from having a struggling top 6, CSK were also missing the services of talisman Dwayne Bravo at No. 7.Embed from Getty Images
6. Lack of Intent and Batting Order
Botched chases have been common for CSK this year. Taking the game deep is no longer an option. Here is CSK’s score at the halfway stage (10 over mark) in each of their games:
- 70/2 chasing 163 vs. Mumbai Indians (Won)
- 82/4 chasing 217 vs. Rajasthan Royals (Lost)
- 47/3 chasing 176 vs. Delhi Capitals (Lost)
- 44/4 chasing 165 vs. Sunrisers Hyderabad (Lost)
- 101/0 chasing 179 vs. Kings XI Punjab (Won)
- 90/1 chasing 168 vs. Kolkata Knight Riders (Lost)
- 47/2 chasing 170 vs. Royal Challengers Bangalore (Lost)
Two phrases that have come up in every post-match analysis thus far?
Lack of urgency and lack of intent. On air, Kevin Pietersen was extremely critical of Ambati Rayudu’s absence of intensity and energy in running between the wickets in his innings of 42 (40) against RCB.
In each game lost, there has been similar innings’ from the middle order.
- Dhoni 9(12) (before hitting 3 sixes to get to 29 (17) and the team to 200 vs RR)
- Vijay’s 10 (15) and Watson’s 14 (16) vs DC
- Dhoni and Jadeja pushing the required rate up. Needed 78 off 24 before accelerating vs. SRH
- Kedar Jadhav’s 7 (12) vs. KKR
- Rayudu’s 40 (42) vs. RCB
The lack of game time is causing each batsman to bide their time, which is hurting the team’s overall performance. Maybe Sam Curran and Ravindra Jadeja should be pushed up the order in the next few games.
You can play for the Net Run Rate as much as you want….but you need the points on the Points Table in the first place for all that to even matter.
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7. Team Management And Aging Squad
CSK is filled with match-winners.
Stephen Fleming and MS Dhoni are known to back people even when they are struggling. The most famous example is the team management persisting with Shane Watson. Watson repaid the faith in 2018 qualifiers/finals and almost took them home in 2019 as well.
Even this year Shane Watson came back with an unbeaten 83*(53) after struggling initially.
The downside of backing match-winners? Players of the quality of Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi, Josh Hazlewood, and Mitchell Santner are warming the bench and young Indian talent like Jagadeesan not getting many chances.
And of course, the older the squad, the lower the fielding standards.
Where Can CSK Go From Here?
Is there still hope? Yes. CSK fan’s are recalling the 2010 campaign, when they came back from a similar position to win their maiden IPL trophy.
The Chennai Super Kings can still win, but they need to up their intensity, correct their batting order, put faith in youngsters, utilize the mid-season transfer window wisely, and some magic.
My take? Every great team has its ebbs and flows. Even a once-in-a-generation Spain football (soccer) team of the 2010 FIFA World Cup glory had to bow out in the group stages after an unbeaten run.
Every good thing comes to an end.
Some people are calling Shane Watson to retire. Others have been calling for Dhoni’s. I think it is time that the entire CSK team just retire.
Stephen Fleming and MS Dhoni have led CSK to greatness consistently for over a decade. It is time the Chennai Super Kings start afresh again.
2020 has been a grim year. CSK not qualifying for the playoffs will just set that in stone.