Hit hard by a start that least defines them, Chennai Super Kings would be desperate to find answers to their predicament when they take on Kings XI Punjab in an IPL match here on Sunday.
So used to be on top of their game in the previous editions, sitting at the bottom of the points table now with three losses in four matches is unknown territory for the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side.
Nothing has worked for them despite having the resources.
They even made three changes to their playing XI for Friday’s game against Sunrisers Hyderabad but neither comeback of Ambati Rayudu nor the presence of Dwayne Bravo could lift the gloom.
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A misfiring top-order, save Faf du Plessis, combined with inadequate run-flow in the middle overs and the habit of leaving way too much for the climax, proved to be their bane in the three consecutive defeats.
They have it in them to turn it around but everything — fielding, bowling and batting — has to come together.
When the result go a team’s way, many of the frailties gets hidden but even the smallest of things get exposed when the opposite happens.
The desperation was palpable on Dhoni’s face after the latest loss.
“Long time back once we lost three in a row. We need to get a lot of things right. It is the professionalism. We need to take our catches, not bowl no-balls. Those are the controllables and may be we are getting too relaxed,” he said.
“We have been a bit too relaxed at times. After the 16th over, we had two good overs but overall we could have been slightly better.”
CSK will need one of their top-order batsmen to put runs on the board and run-rate in the middle overs need to be taken care of, too. If that happens, it will allow Dhoni to find his feet.
Dhoni has batted under tremendous pressure in the initial games and the huge expectations make his and his team’s failure look worse. By the time he goes after the attack, the asking rate would soar to unprecedented levels.
If the team can manage enough runs in the middle overs, it will give some cushion to Dhoni and other capable batsmen down the order.
But the job would be easier said than done since they are up against a side which has been batting well, though results have not exactly gone in their favour.
Skipper KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal have been in top form.
But despite scoring in excess of 200 twice, the Punjab side lost those matches because of their limited bowling resources. None, expect Mohammed Shami, gives confidence of stopping the rival batsmen.
This is exactly what CSK must look to exploit. They need to get Punjab’s top-order early.
Overall, CSK have better resources but they must utilise them to the hilt.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (captain, wk), M Vijay, Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson, Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Lungi Ngidi, Deepak Chahar, Piyush Chawla, Imran Tahir, Mitchell Santner, Josh Hazlewood, Shardul Thakur, Sam Curran, N Jagadeesan, KM Asif, Monu Kumar, R Sai Kishore, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Karn Sharma.
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (c), Mayank Agarwal, Sheldon Cottrell, Chris Gayle, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Shami, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Karun Nair, James Neesham, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Ishan Porel, Arshdeep Singh, Murugan Ashwin, Krishnappa Gowtham, Harpreet Brar, Deepak Hooda, Chris Jordan, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh, Darshan Nalkande, Ravi Bishnoi, Simran Singh (wk), Jagadeesha Suchith, Tajinder Singh, Hardus Viljoen.
Match starts at 7.30PM IST.