“If 15 runs are needed off the last over, the pressure is on the bowler and not MS Dhoni,” Ian Bishop had once said. Known as one of the best, if not the best finishers in the modern-game, MS Dhoni made sure whatever team he played for, imbibed his never-say-die attitude.
Over the years, MS Dhoni’s reputation as a finisher only grew as he turned up in yellow for the Chennai Super Kings and kept pulling off those miraculous chases. Opposition teams always knew that it wasn’t over until it was over when playing against the Super Kings.
IPL 2020 – Points Table
Be it the 2010 blockbuster in Dharamsala, or the ‘comeback’ win over Mumbai Indians in 2018 or the cameos against RCB at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Dhoni and CSK made it a habit to finish off close chases with enviable consistency. Over the years, Chennai fans have enjoyed the experience of witnessing those nerve-racking wins.
However, the tried and tested ‘Dhoni model’ seems to be failing CSK at IPL 2020. Without their enforcer-in-chief, Suresh Raina, CSK batting unit has looked a shadow of its former self.
At the half-way mark of the new season in the UAE, CSK have thrown away what can be called routine chases by their standards with an appalling approach in the middle overs.
Mid-innings totals that tell us the CSK story of IPL 2020
CSK have not batted first yet in the tournament but in 7 chases, they have managed only 2 wins. Let’s have a look at their scores at the half-way marks of their failed chases.
82 for 4 in 10 overs, chasing 217 vs RR — Lost by 16 runs
47 for 3 in 10 overs, chasing 176 vs DC — Lost by 44 runs
44 for 4 in 10 overs, chasing 165 vs SRH — Lost by 7 runs
90 for 1 in 10 overs, chasing 168 vs KKR — Lost by 10 runs
47 for 2 in 10 overs, chasing 170 vs RCB — Lost by 37 runs
Barring the chase against Kolkata Knight Riders, which dramatically slowed down after the 10th over, CSK have been showing no intent after the powerplay. With Shane Watson hitting and missing and Faf du Plessis facing too much pressure to be the enforcer at the top, Chennai have made a mess of run-chases so far at IPL 2020.
Between overs 6 to 14, Chennai have lost the games in almost all of their failed chases. Kedar Jadhav, who faced severe criticism for getting 7 off 12 balls against KKR, was dropped for the RCB game on Friday. But nothing changed. Young N Jagadeesan, who replaced Jadhav, stitched a 64-run stand with Ambati Rayudu but the duo took 52 balls for it on a difficult batting wicket where only Virat Kohli could wield magic.
MS Dhoni showed intent as he walked in to bat in the 14th over but the asking rate was a bit too much for even a finisher of his quality. A top-order failure and a slowdown in the middle-order saw RCB clinch their biggest win of the season as CSK slumped to their 5th loss.
When Dhoni conceded that the Dhoni model is longer working
At the post-match ceremony after the defeat to familiar foes RCB, Dhoni finally acknowledged that his model of leaving it till the end is not working this season.
“Batting has been a bit of a worry and today also it was evident. We need to do something about it. We can’t just keep turning up… It is almost the same thing that is happening maybe the individuals are different but I think we are better off playing the other way round – play the big shots and even if you get out and it is fine because we can’t leave too many after the 15th or 16th over,” Dhoni said.
“Our batting has lacked a bit of, you can say, power more from the 6th over onwards, individuals get tentative and no matter how much confidence you are giving them, ultimately they have to have their own plan as to how to play. We have not been able to adapt and plan for bowlers bowling from 6-14 overs.”
Can CSK turn it around in the 2nd half?
Dhoni asking CSK to ditch the Dhoni model is not surprising. Dhoni’s own personal form after more than a year out of competitive action has been a cause for concern when it comes to getting those late surges. The openers are not getting the desired stats, consistently.
In the absence of Raina and injury concerns to Rayudu, CSK’s middle order has not had a batsman who is capable of taking risks and clearing boundaries at will in the middle overs. The management is not showing enough faith in Dwayne Bravo’s batting skills, especially after he returned from an injury concern. Sam Curran and Ravindra Jadeja have often had too much to do.
CSK are still not out of the race. But the road ahead seems uphill even for a side that is known for sneaking through to play-offs. It remains to be seen if doing away with the Dhoni model will help them reverse their fortunes.