IPL 2018 mid-season analysis - Can the resurgent MS Dhoni lead Chennai Super Kings to IPL title?

Can the resurgent MS Dhoni lead Chennai Super Kings to IPL title?
 

Close your eyes for a moment. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says IPL? The most frequent answer that one gets is Chennai Super Kings or better still MS Dhoni.

But are they the most successful IPL side ever? If the number of IPL titles won was any parameter to gauge the greatness of a team, CSK with two championship wins, are still one short of the Mumbai Indians.

However, this includes their exile period of 2 years which arrested their advantage. This year, when the team returned to the cash-rich league, one wondered whether they would be able to command the same fandom and glory that they once used to.

Then came the auctions and it only contributed to the worries of CSK. They picked an ageing – read old – team. The likes of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo and Murali Vijay had been CSK’s stars of the yesteryear. But did they still sport the hunger to put up consistent performances? One could only wonder.

Then came their opening match against MI and as expected, things did not as per plan for them. In a match that went down to the wire, it was only after the 15th over that Dwayne Bravo single handedly won them the match.

One thought that it was just the beginner’s luck. But one match after another, CSK have kept chipping along. Now, with half the season done, they are one of the most successful teams of the league and are in contention for winning the IPL 2018 title. Let’s dive a bit deeper and argue upon the question that whether or not the MS Dhoni led Chennai Super Kings can win the title this year.

Captaincy

CSK Captain MS Dhoni has been the team’s greatest asset on and off the field. He has batted extremely well this season and has been able to carry forward that confidence into his captaincy as well.

To be very frank, CSK don’t have the greatest side on paper. But the way MSD has marshalled his troops has made all the difference.

Batting Coach Mike Hussey rightly explained the importance of the CSK Captain in one post match press conference. “Dhoni is such an important player for the team. He’s the captain for one, he’s a fantastic keeper, he’s been in unbelievable form with the bat. It’s probably the best I’ve seen him play for quite a few years.

“He is away from the game as well. We saw the packed house tonight, so many Dhoni fans out there. He’s the key man in our [CSK’s] whole organisation both on and off the field. What I like about him, apart from watching him play in the middle, is the character of the man off the field. He’s very calm and relaxed,” said Mr. Cricket.

 

Batting

In their very first match of the season, middle order batsman Kedar Jadhav got injured and was ruled out for the rest of the tournament. With both Murali Vijay and Faf du Plessis not 100% fit, CSK had to struggle for quality in their batting line up.

However, in times of adversity someone or the other raised their hands up in different matches. While Dwayne Bravo won them the first match, Shane Watson took them over the line in a couple of matches which included a sumptuous hundred.

Then there is Ambati Rayudu who has been nothing short of gold for the franchise. His batting position has been erratically shuffled but he has remained the leading run scorer for CSK this year with runs both at the top and in the middle order.

Last but not the least, MS Dhoni has been a revelation for CSK this season. He has been batting as if he was ten years younger. Not only is he taking the attack to the opposition but also reading the games in his typical manner and lifting his side to victory.

Bowling

Bowling has not been CSK’s strength and their batsmen have had to compensate for their ordinary performances. It was only in the last match against Royal Challengers Bangalore that their bowling finally clicked and Chennai were able to restrict the opposition for a below par total.

CSK had high hopes from Kiwi spinner Mitchell Santer but he got injured even before the tournament began and that changed the dynamics of CSK’s bowling.

Deepak Chahar has bowled with control and swung the ball well in the Poweplay overs but once the ball loses its shine, he has also gone for a lot of runs. He is currently nursing a hamstring injury and is set to make a comeback in a week’s time. Shardul Thakur has been blowing hot and cold but given his International experience, he can be expected to bounce back.

In the few chances that South African pacer Lungi Ngidi has got, he has shown that he can be a handful with the ball and is a good prospect for CSK moving forward.

In the spinning trio of veteran Indian off spinner Harbhajan Singh, South African leggie Imran Tahir and the local leggie Karn Sharma has not done too badly either. Bhajji has been the most consistent and has bowled with a stingy economy rate.

All-rounders

CSK has four leading all-rounders in Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja and David Willey. Out of the lot, Shane Watson has been the best. He gives his Captain 2 overs more often than not and also picks up a wicket here and there. Watson has also been good with the bat at the top of the order.

Dwayne Bravo won them a match with the bat but his performance has been lukewarm since then. He is proving to be very expensive in the death overs and is batting way down for his liking.

Ravindra Jadeja has also not had an impressive season either with the bat or the ball. However, in the last match against RCB, he was successful in leaving a mark by picking up crucial wickets and ended as the Man of the Match.

David Willey has just got a couple of chances but he seems to be promising. It is expected that with the amount of injuries all around, we would get to see more of Willey in the coming matches.

Road ahead

With 7 wins and 3 losses in their 10 games, CSK are comfortably seated at No. 2 in the points table. The form of Dhoni is something to rejoice for them but Chennai still need to plug some loopholes.

Their death bowling is a cause of grave concern. They have not yet settled with a stable death bowling combination. If the likes of Shardul Thakur and Dwayne Bravo keep going for runs, CSK have nowhere else to look.

With Chahar injured and Mark Wood set to fly back to UK, CSK are also bereft of ample backup options. However, their ability to win games from next to impossible situations keeps them in contention for the title.

 If things go as per plan, CSK can give the SunRisers Hyderabad a run for their money for the top spot.

@Cricket World


 

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