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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Curious Case of CSK

What is happening to Chennai Super Kings at IPL 2? The question that surfaced the other day in some column or some TV channel crops up again: Is MSD a lucky captain or is MSD an anagram for MDS (read MiDaS)? Well... at least for now, looking at 1 out of 5 wins and 1 washed out game that was a certain win (against a beleagured KKR), CSK's ante looks to be up and out.

If one took a closer look at The Curious Case of CSK, there is nothing strange. History is only repeating itself, only so! Last year it was Deccan Chargers Hyderabad, this year it seems to be CSK at the moment. At the moment because, they still have 9 matches to go and if they make the semis, which is not a very BIG IF, but an IF... then anything is possible. As the prosaic and hackneyed adage goes, cricket is a funny game!

Let's get back to what the curious case is. Last year DCH was doing everything right and still ended up the bottom of the table. It was the inability to put together the extra oooomph of winning touch. The problem was that they probably possessed too many big guns.

Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Herschelle Gibbs, Rohit Sharma... and yet they couldn't wind it up! Similar problem for CSK this time around: Matt Hayden, Andrew Flintoff, Albie Morkel, Jacob Oram, MSD, Suresh Raina... and yet! May be when you have too many big 'uns you expect one to survive if another fails. Look at KKR - it is happening. Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle, Brad Hodge, Saurav Ganguly and there's a few more as yet unvetted! When you know your stocks are limited, supply is handled frugally. A case at point: Rajasthan Royals in IPL - 1.

What other causes? The first 6 overs. The Power Play period. Last time around Gony, Balaji, Ntini, Amarnath and Murali were delivering. This time around, Gony is looking listless to say the least, Ntini and Amarnath are only seen being interviewed in the 7 and half minute time out or playing water-boys and Balaji has had some success. Joginder 'Iceman' Sharma is busy chewing his paan somewhere between the third man and the dug-out area. There is a limit to how much a recovering Balaji can do. So Murali is your only option. Also... that IPL truly derives from its local flavour is being proved time and again. Last IPL the Indian local recruits performed better in Indian conditions. This time around... it is the South Africans, barring Graeme Smith.

Look at what happened today to Royal Challengers Bangalore. They were struggling till last night. Suddenly, they cruised to a win, even if it is over KKR and even though the score line indicates a last ball victory. The four overseas recruits RCB played in the Eleven were all South Africans. It is indeed a strange scenario why Boucher came into the side this late. Boucher coming in because Rahul is back home is no excuse not to have played a man of the former's stature. I mean, he is the finisher for South Africa. Today RCB played Kallis, Roelf v d Merwe and Mark Boucher who are South Africans and play for South Africa. Of course, their captain is Kevin Pietersen. Now, we haven't forgotten KP is a South African by birth and almost, only almost played for S.Africa and moved to England when denied opportunity. And he is the biggest buy of RCB. So, again the local flavour doing the winning contribution theory holds water!

Eventually, here is the rub: may be CSK should keep Gony out and bring Ntini in. Rest
Albie... Yes, no point resting Badri because he is a pure batsman and his only problem is the inability to clear the ropes. Someone must tell Badri that his strength lies in playing inside the park than into the stands. When he is in flow, it is such a delight what his bat does to the cherry. The groundstrokes are breathtaking and next only to Sachin, Saurav, Rahul or VVS! Barring Mohali, no Indian ground was big enough last time. Also, his range of strokes are better than Morkel who either swings it right or left giving too much stump vision for the bowler thereby making himself vulnerable to well-bowled blockhole deliveries or disguised slower 'uns. He is more of an agrarian with the bat, Albie is!

I also do not think if Ntini, Balaji, Oram and Murali can't do it, neither can Albie win the match with the ball. So, either keep Badri and rest Albie or bring in another pure batsman. Grapevine, newspapers say, is M. Vijay may play instead of Badri, which is a bad idea. Kapugadera is no great slogger or match winner even in LOI for Sri Lanka except the odd contributions. So, why is he in the team in the first place? MSD seems to be in a fix. There is so much talent and shelf back-up, this team is spoilt for choice. MSD's golden touch is also losing out. Behind the cool exterior one can feel the sweat these days. He hasn't scored enough, hasn't middled enough and his ice-man Joginder has not delivered at death. More than Midas touch or luck what had served MSD in the past is his guts to try out lesser mortal and surprise the opponents with the unknown. People are getting used to his tactics. But to give the scenario a hard look and clinical analysis, nothing is wrong with CSK, they just need to understand they are very vulnerable if they don't shove the push hard to endemic levels up the opponent's face than minimal enema they are administering now.

There is a good match coming tomorrow against Wily Shane's Royals. If MSD passes this litmus test, CSK will march the rest of the way into semis. Remember, CSK has a 0-3 record against RR, and nothing like a victory to set this record right, in the process helping themselves to winning ways with IPL-2. All is not rotten in the state of CSK, yet!


Srini said...

I think you are spot on sir KK:

(1) The local Indian cricketers are performing lesser and lesser. I mean you cannot blame these rookies either who travel - to use a Sidhuism - from flat as pancake pitches and suddenly get caught in the thick of SA conditions especially in winter. But no excuses as to why Goni looks disillusioned.

(2) The selection policies - once again you make a pretty valid point there: why was Boucher not picked even for starters? I would pick him eyes shut over Ross Taylor or even Jesse Ryder anyway: it is not JUST the track record, it is, as you say, his ability to complete games. And all of a sudden RCB do not look that bad on the tally. I think the rained-out games have entailed sharing of points that nobody apart from Deccan Chargers - who have been a revelation with all the big guns - look monstrously on the lead.

(3)MSD has indeed been successful because of his instinct: in fact what I admire about Dhoni is the way he has straddled batting and captaincy. It would be unfair to say the latter is affecting the former but yes perhaps he should keep the oppositions honest by being himself.

Great read. Very searching post!

Krishna Kumar said...

Srini thanks as ever. One word of info... I have become an active contributor the last few days at Bleacher Report - the world's first open source sports network. I think you should take a look there. It's quite interesting to be among kins. I shall post more of my sports related articles there from now on. Of course, I will link any of my posts here to a mirror there. All you gotta do is click the Blogger post's title to get there. But, Bleacher is absolutely interesting. Check my recent articles there. And spread the word about B/R