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IPL 2019: Expectations and glaring deficiencies

weighing down CSK's performances 

10.05.2019   Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

At the end of the Eliminator stage, the three best teams of this year’s IPL have reached the final stages of the tournament. Out of the three teams, the best team of the tournament Mumbai Indians is already in the finals and just a match away from lifting the trophy.

Delhi and Chennai are not far behind with two matches away from attaining glory. In a way, Basil Thampi ensured that justice had been done when Delhi Capitals prevailed over Sunrisers, Hyderabad in a close encounter in the eliminator. Otherwise, SRH with a mere 12 points in the league stages would have reached the final stages of the tournament and Delhi Capitals would have been left high and dry with 18 points.

While there were no doubts over the superior performances of MI and DC this year, there were a series   of criticisms about the inadequate performance of Chennai Super Kings this year. Most of the pundits were of the opinion that CSK, a team with innumerable glaring weaknesses, didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs but somehow managed to reach the Qualifiers.

CSK's Performance

In this article, let us analyze whether CSK’ s performance this year was that bad compared to the earlier years. Let us also find out whether CSK’s track record in IPL has created a situation of over expectation from the team which has weighed down on their performance along with the apparent weaknesses of the team this year.

It would be a boring repetition to mention here that CSK is the only team to reach the playoffs in all the 10 IPL seasons in which they participated. They became the champions thrice and made it to the finals on 4 other occasions when they ended up runners.

A remarkable performance by any yardstick. Their track record goes before them in every season and the fans expect them to achieve the impossible every time. To be fair to the CSK players, they have lived up to the expectations with their scintillating performances year after year.

Their unprecedented success has reached a stage where the players can’t take any more of the pressure in performing consistently right through the season. Looking back at this season, CSK hasn’t done that badly to invoke that many criticisms.

To start with, CSK did qualify for the playoffs with 18 points at the end of the league stages and not with 12 points. Incidentally, they secured the same number of points last year. But in last year’s IPL,  a bundle of emotions was going around due to CSK’s return to IPL after a gap of 2 years which had dramatized every CSK win.

Their dramatic win against MI in the opening match last year had set the tone for the season which culminated into CSK becoming the champions for the third time in 9 years.

This time around CSK won 7 of their first 8 matches and couldn’t sustain the momentum and faded away thereafter. But that didn’t prevent them from qualifying for the playoffs. In fact, they became the first team to qualify for the playoffs this year.

CSK did lose to MI in qualifier 1 at Chennai

CSK did lose to MI in qualifier 1 at Chennai, their third loss of the season against the same opponent. But last year too they very nearly lost the Qualifier 1 against SRH before Faf du Plessis single-handedly took them to an unexpected win.

This time around they are forced to take the circuitous route to the finals with the much improved Delhi Capitals  in their way in qualifier 2. It would be a great achievement if CSK could go past DC to reach the finals for the 8th time.

As far as the total points secured at the end of the league stages of different IPL seasons are concerned, as against this year’s 18 points, CSK managed to reach the playoffs of IPL 2010 with a mere 14 points and then went onto becoming the champions for the first time. Interestingly, CSK finished with 18 points on 4 previous consecutive seasons in 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019.

CSK Team Members

Having said that, there are a lot of glaring deficiencies in this CSK team. For starters, except MS Dhoni, none of the other batsmen managed to make any meaningful contribution. It was Dhoni, Imran Tahir and Deepak Chahar who made a huge contribution to CSK’s success this year. The bowlers did a terrific job right through the season only to be let down by the batsmen.

In the past, CSK has produced different heroes for different occasions. Unfortunately, this season that never happened. In batting, it was all Dhoni or nothing. Ironically, Shane Watson, who was under severe criticism for his inconsistent batting, could manage to win a game for his team against SRH. Similarly, Mitchell Santner. who got only limited opportunities, took his team to victory against RR with a last ball six.

Apart from Dhoni and the above two performances, none of the CSK batsmen came to the party either as an individual or as a team as a whole. Star batsmen like Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, and Watson were guilty of playing injudicious strokes at crucial stages of the game. But they simply refused to learn from their repeated mistakes.

Another glaring weakness is the fielding standards of the CSK team. Much of that could be attributed to the average age factor of the team. Even a good fielder like a Raina is found wanting on the field.

The energy level often associated with Raina on the field is somehow missing which necessitated  Dhoni to position him in the 30 yards circle all the time. Even a normally safe fielder like Dwayne Bravo is not in his elements this year. As a result, the crowd never got to witness his famous dances. The only saving grace for CSK has been the presence of Faf du Plessis and  Ravindra Jadeja to man the boundary.

This season CSK has been deprived of a tearaway fast bowler like Lungi Ngidi to bowl in the power play. Dhoni’s tactic of managing the power play overs with Chahar and Harbhajan Singh backfired when CSK was defending totals.

At times, the third over bowled by Chahar and Harbhajan in the powerplay became the game changer as it happened in the Qualifier 1 against MI. Even a shrewd Captain like Dhoni had no answers to such conspicuous paucity.

Again, as always, CSK has been too rigid with their team selection and batting order. Raina has been permanently occupying the No. 3 position despite his poor form and his tendency to head back to the pavilion at the earliest possible time. In the end, the batting prowess of Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo were left untouched. The shuffling of batting order might have produced new heroes for CSK.

To sum up, in spite of all these shortcomings, CSK still managed to reach the playoff stages. But the shortcomings are very much there for everyone to see. Their track record in IPL and the huge expectation associated with that   hasn’t helped their cause either.

But CSK is not yet out of the tournament and all these failings will be brushed under the carpet if they still manage to win the next 2 matches. Not impossible but highly improbable.