After a third, frenetic, last-over, come-from-behind-to-scare-the-opposition finish, Chennai Super Kings fell short of Kings XI Punjab’s total by four runs and that narrow margin had people looking for reasons as to where things went wrong. One of them seems to centre around Ravindra Jadeja’s position in the batting order. He has been coming ahead of Dwayne Bravo, who, only last week, took the team from 118 for 8 all the way to their target of 169.
But the captain MS Dhoni wants to try Jadeja in the finisher’s role. “It’s a difficult one. And Fleming is in the dugout, so he needs to take that decision. And, we have confidence in Jadeja also, one of the reasons is that being a left-hander, it’s not easy to consistently bowl to a left-hander and also this is the time that we can give him that opportunity to express himself.
It took a week – a total of 11 full, 20-over matches – for a team batting first to win in IPL 2018. And both of them lost the toss and were put in. Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming was asked to explain this and he said “When you’re chasing, you get certainty in an uncertain game and so you can manage your risks and you saw MS manage risk almost to perfection today. It was just a couple of good yorkers from Mohit Sharma that denied the win.
“So the way the game is going, the certainty around managing risk and the ability of players to hit and chase down 15, 16, 18 runs an over is probably one of the key factors now. But there’s also dew and there’s no deterioration, so the pitch doesn’t get slower, it often gets better. So just from a strategic point of view, if you know how many you have to get and how hard you have to go, then you’re probably getting an advantage.”
“If he doesn’t do [it]. Bravo is an experienced one, he can always go back and do the job for us. But overall, Jadeja is somebody who can do it for us and that’ll be really good because Raina at the top, one left-hander, and if you have Jadeja who can do the job as a floater, that really makes it difficult for the opposition to plan their bowing.
“Unless we give him an opportunity; so far we have never really given him the kind of opportunity that he really deserves, so I will definitely back him to come good in the coming games.”
Super Kings appear fairly happy taking the scenic route this IPL season. They’ve fallen behind in each of their three chases, to the point that they were left needing 69, then 75, and finally on Sunday, a whopping 85 runs off the final 36 balls. Bravo pulled off a miracle in the first game. Sam Billings bettered that in the second. And Dhoni was but one hit away from making it a hat-trick of hair-raising victories.
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It looks like saving the fun for the very end – regardless of how tough the job becomes – will be the Super Kings way. When asked about where the team needed to improve, Dhoni credited the opposition bowlers’ execution for stifling his batsmen – noting that 17-year-old Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman couldn’t be “hit at will” – and concentrated heavily on managing errors in the field. Super Kings are possibly the oldest side in the tournament and with that came certain limitations.
“Fielding, we can’t improve, so I won’t really say that,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation. “So, we’ll be a safe fielding side; we won’t be an extraordinary fielding side. We’ll just have to make sure that when we are under the pump from the batsmen, what are the boundaries that we can omit, what are the easy deliveries that we are not supposed to give because good batsmen will hit you and throughout the IPL it is something they will have to go through. Just that if you keep cutting one or two boundaries here and there, at the end of the game, you’ll realise those were the six or eight runs that really made the difference.”
Dhoni suffered through a flaring of his back injury for most of the time he spent in the middle making an unbeaten 79 off 44 balls. “It’s bad; how bad it is, I don’t know. God has given me the power. I don’t need to use the back a lot, the hands can do the job. But overall, we’ll assess how bad it is. It shouldn’t be too bad because I know what really happened and once you know the kind of injury it is, it becomes slightly easy to get out of it and also we have three-four days now before the next game. I’m quite used to playing with few injuries, whether it is back, fingers, elbow or something else. You have to be tough and get on with the game.”
Super Kings have had to deal with Faf du Plessis being sidelined with injury, and Suresh Raina missed the Kings XI game with a calf complaint, although he said he should be ready for the next one against Rajasthan Royals on Friday. Their head coach Stephen Fleming was proud of the “character” shown in salvaging victory from the brink of defeat, but he is longing for an easy day at the office.
“I’d love love a game where we bowl a team out for 140 and chase it down. But the competition is pretty even. Wickets at the top is important. We’ve seen teams that do that so we have to reassess that and make sure we’ve got the right combination. But we’re not too far away, we’ve scrapped and been competing in each game so far and almost got across the line today. So there’s not much to moan about. The tournament’s still pretty early, so to have two wins out of three with injuries and a bit of drama with our home ground, we’ll probably take that.”
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