Through fate, incompetence (on the parts of others) and some scattered hard work, Chennai Super Kings have reached the playoffs of yet another edition of the Indian Premier League.
I shouldn’t talk about incompetence though, CSK needed massive amounts of luck to make it through including 3 crucial results in a row that involved RR, KXIP and RCB all losing to teams like DC.
CSK meet Mumbai Indians in the Eliminator tonight, a team we’ve never beaten since 2010. We’ve lost 5 games since then to them including one CLT20 fixture. CSK never lost a game when I was watching at the stadium (happened twice) but they lost off the last ball earlier in May when I was in the Wankhede, wondering why Dhoni couldn’t set a straight mid on/long on, why Hilfenhaus couldn’t bowl a short pitch delivery to Dwayne Smith. Sachin Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma found form, Harbhajan Singh bowled well and even Smith connected with three consecutive deliveries. Can things get worse?
Yes they can. Mumbai have NEVER lost a game at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, the venue of the Eliminator. Not even when they were 51/5 in 8.5 overs chasing 171. Instead they sealed the chase with 2 balls to spare, hitting 122 off just 65 fucking balls. And this was just over a week ago.
In Plaha, Munaf, RP, Rohit and Dinesh Karthik, MI have players who have their issues with/feel let down by MS Dhoni, by the K Srikkanth led selection panel and even Murali Vijay. That’s a lot of personal motivation to be up against.
Mumbai have experimented with about 10 different opening pairs but all of them have had one great stand. Not the same case with CSK where the questions of playing Hussey ahead of du Plessis, of playing Srikkanth, of where to slot Badrinath/Bravo in the batting order and Jakati’s wildly fluctuating form have added their share of white hairs to MS Dhoni’s head. Add to that his and Suresh Raina’s weakest form in years and you can understand why CSK aren’t the favourites tonight.
However, they weren’t the favourites earlier in 2010. They weren’t favourites for a point in 2011. Heck, they weren’t favourites on Sunday afternoon. But they’re still here. That takes some doing, gives me some hope.
After a very bad campaign I had resigned myself to our first exit without making the playoffs since the IPL began. When we finally put a run that made us look like contenders we got the worst show of the season at Dharamsala. But we still made it through. Every win from here therefore is a bonus and three wins in a row against MI, DD and KKR respectively is a lot to ask for even the most optimistic fans. But we’re used to asking and used to getting. So good luck, do your best and whistle podu!
Chasing 157, CSK were neck deep in shit at 146/8 in 19.4 overs against Kings XI Punjab on Saturday evening. 11 needed off 2 balls but with two bowlers who can hit a bit at the crease, a distant possibility.
The next ball, this happened:
Ashwin has become petulant of late but that’s for another post. CI adding a ‘rightly so’, I won’t even go there.
Umpires are humans and they have their inconsistencies but this decision was by no means an objective one. Had this come earlier in the game I’d bet on it being called a wide. Coming off the penultimate ball of a chase, Umpire Tarapore chose to call it a legal delivery and signalled a bye.
Why this particular delivery? What if Mahmood had followed up by firing another one down leg, a fraction wider than the previous one clear enough to be signalled a wide?
Going down leg is generally a good rule of thumb to identify a wide, why not call everything that goes down leg a wide? 11 needed off two balls could’ve easily turned into a still possible 9 off two, instead it became an impossible 10 off 1, ending the game for CSK.
Umpires aren’t there to appreciate skill, they have to make decisions based on what they see. Kissed the leg stump on it’s way to the keeper? Legal, maybe, if you saw it. Missed it? Wide. Hit a stump and disturbed the bails? Bowled, unless you’re Johan Cloete/Anil Chaudhury, the batsman is Sangakkara and you’re up for a scrap with Munaf and Harbhajan.
Didn’t watch the RR vs DD game today but heard about this incident:
18.4 Morkel to Hodge, no run, down the leg-side, was it? And not called a wide! Everyone is smiling there, including the batsman and the fielders…!
A Morne Morkel delivery down the leg-side wasn’t given a wide and DD ultimately won by 1 run. Two opinion calls in two days. I’ll admit CSK was mostly a lost cause before the wide that wasn’t but surely RR aren’t amused.
The leg side wide rule in limited over formats is quite harsh on the bowlers but I’m not sure how inconsistent decisions like this can fix that imbalance. It’s one of the few rules you
can could expect umpires to not screw up completely.
Image via Cricinfo
It’s been great but this is what I felt two weeks ago.
There is no change in the stance.
Beloved CSK went out in the first round, ending at the bottom of Group A, bucking trends like only N Srinivasan’s team can by screwing up two chases horribly. This was after losing to Mumbai Indians (now with 9.09% less Indians) from a position of certain victory and beating the Cape Cobras after looking down and out. Stephen Fleming attributed it to ‘no gas in the tank’, saying the England tour had drained the big players. It was like hearing Gary Kirsten attribute the lackluster Twenty20 World Championships performances of India in 2009 and 2010 to the IPL seasons that preceded them. True words, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it. This exit doesn’t rankle much, considering it’s the only break MSD and Raina will get in some time.
It could get worse, Mumbuy-lots-of-foreigners-and-play-them-only-as-much-as-possible Indians could still win this tournament.
PS: I have been writing match previews and reports for select games, you can read them here.
It was mostly a boring match. Rahul Dravid’s T20 innings was the highlight of it. He adapted well but the grace traded for rushed effectiveness only spoilt the memories. Maybe because it was a slogfest the last time these two played on this pitch, no doubt that was on CSK’s mind when they had the ropes at the MAC pushed according to this Scott Styris tweet:
No such excitement this time though. Rahul Dravid’s knock was exactly the kind of innings that used to be written off as a freak innings even if one came every 5-6 ODIs. RR powered through to 86 for no loss in their first 10 overs helped by some very poor fielding by CSK. At which point Shadab Jakati began the fightback by plucking a screamer from Shane Watson right above his head. The Chennai choke was then applied.
The rest of the batsmen didn’t learn from Dravid and kept holing out. Dravid himself got out trying to go over the top when he could’ve easily reaped runs with his conventional shot making. In an amusing strategy #win, Taylor was out caught inches from the long on ropes.
Mid innings, when the Royals looked on course for at least 170, Stephen Fleming was asked how much he would be comfortable chasing, he replied 148. Rajasthan Royals ended their innings without a single six, at 147/6.
Vijay couldn’t repeat the innings that established his T20 cred but the Mike Hussey bot and Raina settled down. The two grafted runs in a
busy boring partnership till the eleventh over. The eleventh over thankfully for all the audiences watching across the world saw two sixes as the two took on Nayan Doshi. That over also got the CSK run rate past the asking rate.
With 3 required for a win, Raina tried to win with a big shot and lost his wicket. Morkel walked in at the non striker’s end, watched as Hussey smashed a four, blew his smoking bat and walked off, CSK won by 8 wickets.
Paul Valthaty Update
At the end of the CSK vs RR match, Hussey briefly shared the most runs this IPL tag with Sachin (327 runs) although with a higher average, one lesser not out innings, in fewer innings, two fewer matches, higher strike rate etc. Sachin got it back half an hour later and ended the night 24 runs ahead. Kallis also pushed past Valthaty this afternoon but tonight the cap rests on the bald pate of Sehwag who dropped a mega ton on DC to move up past Sachin and Hussey to the top spot.
Valthaty needs 122 runs just to overtake Sehwag as the leading run scorer. He’s scored that many in a single innings already this season. Encore?
Chennai Super Kings fought back after a huge scare from the Deccan Chargers to win their home game by 19 runs on Sunday, May 1st.
That’s not to say DC didn’t have a shtick of their own called Sunny Sohal. The shots he played to the pacers Morkel and Bollinger were ridiculous. He didn’t have a bucket of luck as much as a torrent that he rode to get to his 50. Sohal repeatedly backed off to the leg to make room for hitting on the off, found the ball following him, closed his eyes, even fell over and swung. Each time he got lucky, edging it AND getting boundaries. Only when he was facing Randiv did he play ‘shots’, slogs over midwicket and long on added to the misery for CSK. Then like most lucky fools who don’t acknowledge the luck they had, he tried one reverse sweep too many and was bowled.
But he left DC at a very comfortable position, requiring just 95 off 13.1 overs to overhaul CSK’s score of 165.
That CSK score didn’t look like it would happen at one point in time. Steyn wasn’t playing but DC’s bowlers did a great job to restrict CSK to a sedate start. Ojha removed Murali Vijay and the part timers were rushing through rather tight overs. Mike Hussey bot was grafting runs at one end when Raina decided to break free. A little success but he got out just when he got CSK to a 18th over par score. Thankfully Morkel the batsman turned up and tonked the ball over the ropes for one medium and two humongous sixes in the 19th over. That last flourish pushed the total from a tricky 140-ish score to a certainly defendable 165/5.
Sohal’s periscope shots studded innings though looked good to push all that aside. It was irritating to watch good bowling from Morkel and Bollinger not just rendered ineffective but costly. 94 from 13.1 should be cakewalk ideally but the rest of the DC batsmen couldn’t do it. Dhawan had been rotating strike earlier but lost his wicket when he tried to take charge. Jakati, already having dismissed the openers, took a brilliant catch to dismiss Chipli, White struggled and that led to Sanga going for the big hits and being bowled. Bollinger and Morkel returned to finish their quota and this time got the rewards they deserved, snagging White, Christian, JPD helped along by tighter fielding.
The margin of victory may not say it but the match was as good as lost for CSK for a long period of time. It seemed for a while that they just waited for Sohal’s luck to run out before thinking out a fresh plan. That luck running out bit didn’t happen against Punjab and we know how that ended. MSD needs to work out his set pieces and contingency plans for his set pieces to avoid being blown away by upstarts again. The table’s pretty even at the moment and these little things will matter if CSK are to make it to the top two.
Paul Valthaty Update:
First Virat Kohli overtook both Paul Valthaty and Master Performer Sachin Tendulkar™. Then Sachin overtook them again, then Virender Sehwag overtook everybody but Sachin and Valthaty overtook just Kohli to get behind Sehwag and Sachin. Paul Valthaty also had a disappointing game at his IRL home ground, scratching his way to 33 off 38 in the same game that Sachin reclaimed the Orange cap with a 51 as MI surged to a 33 run win with the help of some good ole cheating . How many more obstacles must this man face? How many more twists will his story of eventual triumph take?
They’re playing games faster than I can write crappy reviews.
Presumably having learnt from Mumbai’s performance in the field last week, the Chennai Super Kings threw themselves on the field with determination against the Pune Warriors India at the Chepauk to convincingly defend a modest total.
CSK brought in Jakati for Joginder while PWI brought in Jerome Taylor, Nathan McCullum and Manish Pandey. Yuvi put CSK in to bat and Murali Vijay immediately played a Tendulkar like innings. By that I specifically mean the WC semi final innings where he survived a lot of chances thanks to poor fielding. Vijay being no Tendulkar didn’t make as many runs before finally being dismissed (short ball, bleddy Indian batsman) in the 10th over with the score on 64. Michael Hussey did his robotic run accumulation routine at the other end.
I missed the match from here until when PWI started batting but here’s how it went: Raina flopped immediately, Dhoni hit a few and got out, Hussey got to 60, tried to hit and got out, Albie Morkel mega flopped (duck!), Badri and Aniruddha scored whatever they could coming in so late. Takes a lot to defend142 and PWI could have easily done it.
The experiments on Mohnish Mishra continued and he opened the batting with Jesse Ryder. To the joy of DC fans, all he did was redirect an Albie Morkel delivery on to his stumps. Ryder looked as dangerous as a Talli Tubby can when he hit a straight six beyond the sightscreen off Ashwin. Next delivery an arm ball skidded into his stumps as he made room to cut it square. Manish Pandey was at the other end, settling down in his first game after serving a 4 match ban for seeking a higher pay instead of shutting up and signing on for servitude at RCB. He too was early into a shot trying to guide it down to third man; managing only to guide it as far as his stumps. In walked Captain Yuvraj, who had hit a century at the MAC last month against WI in the World Cup in between cramping up, throwing up and fighting delirium. Uthappa immediately deserted him, attempting a rather gymnastic sweep only to be bowled round his legs, leaving PWI at 40/4 and Ashwin with a wicket maiden over.
The choke applied was rather vintage CSK and it was heart warming to see. Ashwin and Randiv were lovely, flighting the ball, making the batsmen check themselves and spend their energy trying to hit the ball past the inner circle. The fielding made sure that Yuvraj and Manhas didn’t get any boundaries in the first three overs they were in, escalating the RRR. What they did fail at was getting direct hits, giving Yuvraj a reprieve early on.
Their partnership of 38 saw just one four and a six; the pressure piled on and Manhas was out trying to steal runs using the pace of Bollinger. Nathan McCullum came in and rotated the strike waiting for Yuvraj to explode but it never came. Yuvraj looked very tired, turning down easy runs and that he could barely middle anything didn’t help. A tired mistimed slash over cover saw Jakati pull off a brilliant catch mid air in the 19thover and PWI were as good as out. Yuvraj Singh, 34 off 43b, 2×4, 0×6, SR: 79.06 was where the game was won.
The RRR was beyond possible and PWI lost more wickets as CSK’s bowling and fielding remained relentless. Nathan McCullum top edged a bouncer while Jerome Taylor and Rahul Sharma were run out as Morkel and Bollinger returned to finish with brilliant, accurate spells. PWI ended the night on 117/9, CSK winning by 25 runs.
Abhinav Mukund put in a contribution with a direct hit from long on to run out Taylor. I don’t know how he’s done in the domestic T20s but it would be worth to give him a go in place of Aniruddha. Although he will have to bat in the middle order, no accommodations there.
PWI have been screwed badly by Ashish Nehra’s injury, they had can’t take Smith/Paine until the bowling gets more consistent contributions from the local bunch. CSK are closer to their best combination but still too dependent on the spinners and that’s been their bane in away games where the pitches haven’t been as helpful as the MAC one.
We just avoided the wooden spoon thanks to Punjab’s spirited response to Delhi’s 221. This win gives us some breathing space before facing Pune again on Wednesday, this time at the DY Patil Stadium, Pune’s ‘home ground’. Hopefully we overcome the away game jitters, win this one and get on a roll!
Paul Valthaty Update:
His middle name is Chandrashekhar, his complete name is Paul Chandrashekhar Valthaty and his friends probably call him PC. He is no longer the Orange Cap wearer (should be wearer not holder IMO) in IPL 2011 because Sachin is now 8 runs clear of him and will probably widen the gap in his MI’s next match vs Rajasthan against that guy whose nightmares he allegedly appears. Paul Valthaty might have a mountain to climb to win back a ridiculous looking trophy.