We are about to enter the ‘business’ end of what has been a pretty long IPL season. The way things stand at the moment suggest a photo-finish to the league stages with 7 teams in the race to make it to the last 4. It is this feature of the IPL which makes it so likeable - the element of uncertainty till the end! While the fortunes have fluctuated for a couple of sides, others have been able to maintain consistency with respect to wins; almost an unreal feature in T20 cricket! There is one team though which has been quite thus far but could script another exceptional turn-around - Chennai Super Kings (CSK)!
Despite an indifferent start, the men in yellow find themselves with a very good chance to make it to the last 4. Unlike previous editions CSK haven’t had a settled & an in-form batting line-up. Chennai’s average total this season has been 139.42 suggesting an under-par effort from the powerful unit. Murali Vijay could do no wrong last year but has been struggling to find form this season. Hussey’s unavailability initially meant somebody had to step up; Faf du Plessis satiated that requirement. Scroll down the batting and you’ll struggle to freeze ‘in-form’ players. It needed some hard-hitting to win close matches for the yellow boys; an outstanding finish from Albie Morkel and Bravo won a game for them against Bangalore while cameos from Morkel and Annirudha did it against Rajasthan. We often tend to remember individual brilliances in tight games and tend to overlook the big picture; which in this case happens to be 4 important points!
The batting wasn’t the only worry for Chennai at the beginning; the bowling appeared feeble and short on penetration. With Hilfenhaus forging a new-ball combine with Albie Morkel and Bravo backing up alongwith the spinners, the Chennai bowling has gradually shaped up nicely. The bowling has played second fiddle to the batting thus far, but it has the potential to match the batting and sustain the momentum when it gets to pressure games.
Chennai have been inconsistent thus far, but you sense that MSD would be itching to book a play-off berth, and take it from there. The CSK management would be telling the team about season-3 which had a similar fate for CSK in the league stages. Tied on same points, CSK had managed to barely scrape through to the semis then, and you sense this season could be similar. Dhoni hasn’t fired, but that shouldn’t worry CSK fans at all, with history suggesting that Dhoni tends to peak at the right moment in a long tournament. If you trace back CSK’s journey in IPL-5 you will invariably find that they have managed to win all close matches (barring the exception of the one versus MI).
With the league closing in on the playoff stage, you would expect teams with temperament and ability to hold nerves to go through; parameters on which CSK appear better than most other sides. Chennai are the defending champions and would be very disappointed if they don’t make it to the last 4. The last two matches (vs KKR and vs KXIP) are tough and must-win for MSD’s boys, but you wouldn’t be surprised to find CSK ending up winning both those matches. On performances over the period of the last 6 weeks, CSK won’t qualify as top contenders for the title this year but with MSD you never know! They may stumble during the league stages or play-offs or win the title but to discount CSK at any stage would be a risk at your own peril!