How Dhoni’s CSK can bounce back

At the halfway point, after winning just two games out of seven, CSK are looking set to miss the play-offs for the first time in their history.
Harish Kotian tells Captain M S Dhoni and Coach Stephen Fleming how to get CSK back to its winning ways.

Things are going from bad to worse for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL this year.

While it has been a strange year for everyone with the COVID-19 situation, it seems to have affected three-time IPL champions CSK big time.

It all started from the positive tests during their quarantine period, which saw them miss one week of some valuable practice, ahead of the IPL in the UAE.

And they suffered another jolt when they lost two of their experienced performers in Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh, both of whom pulled out of the tournament due to personal reasons.

CSK are the only team to have made it to the play-offs in every season they have played.

They won the title thrice (2010, 2011 and 2018), while finishing runners up five times (2008, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2019).

But at the halfway point, having played seven games out of 14, CSK are looking set to miss the play-offs for the first time in their history. They are currently lying sixth in the standings with just two wins out of seven games.

Despite all that, it will be naïve to write them off especially when they are being led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is capable of turning things around anytime.

However, for that to happen, CSK’s Dad’s Army will need to play out of their skins to affect the turnaround while the coaching staff will also need to play a key role with the right selection of players.

A look at five major changes which could help CSK get back to its winning ways:

Slot Faf du Plessis in middle order

Faf du Plessis has been the only CSK batsman who has been among the runs in this IPL.

The South African has scored three half-centuries in seven games to tally more than 300 runs at a strike rate of 147.

Du Plessis has done a good job as the opener, but with the middle order struggling for runs, CSK could look at the experienced du Plessis coming down the order at No 4 or 5.

He is a good player of spin bowling and could thus control the innings in the middle overs, while also providing the final flourish at the end.

With CSK suffering all their five losses in run chases, du Plessis’s experience could come in handy in tight situations.

Promote Rayudu as opener

Ambati Rayudu has looked a pale shadow of himself and struggled to get going in the IPL.

The experienced right-hander has failed to click at the crucial No 3 and seems to be taking a lot of pressure on himself in Raina’s absence.

CSK could promote Rayudu to open the innings and let him play freely without worrying about his wicket.

If he clicks he could not only provide the perfect start for CSK and but also lay the perfect foundation for the likes of Dhoni and du Plessis to follow.

Dhoni at No 3

Dhoni who made a comeback to competitive cricket in the IPL after a gap of more than a year has looked rusty.

He has batted in various positions, preferring to send the likes of Sam Curran and Ravindra Jadeja ahead of him in situations where batsmen needed to go on the attack right from the start.

Dhoni’s only innings of note was the 36-ball 47 not out against SunRisers Hyderabad, but he still failed to finish the game in a tight run chase.

It is clear that Dhoni is taking to get his eye in and has struggled to produce the big hits in the last few overs.

CSK, or maybe Dhoni himself could promote himself to No 3, which will allow him to dictate the pace of the innings and would also give him the time to settle down and get his mojo back.

Maybe with time spent out in the middle and after a few knocks, we could see the Dhoni of old peppering the UAE skyline with his helicopter sixes.

CSK should try out Santner

Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner is one player whom CSK must try out in the remaining seven games.

The Kiwi all-rounder recently excelled in the Caribbean Premier League where he took six wickets in nine games, but importantly had an impressive economy rate of 5.59.

With the pitches in UAE slowing down and Ravindra Jadeja not living up to his top billing, Santner could be a good option for Dhoni in the spin department.

Bring back Ngidi

CSK need a fresh injection of extra pace to bolster their bowling as the medium pace trio of Deepak Chahar, Sam Curran and Shardul Thakur have not been able to make much impact.

The likes of Kagiso Rabada, Jasprit Bumrah and Jofra Archer have done well in IPL 2020 and it is high time CSK bring in fast bowler Lungi Ngidi whose express pace could add another dimension to their attack.

He played a role in CSK’s opening win against Mumbai Indians when he took 3/38 to trigger a late collapse.

However, his poor showing in the next game against Rajasthan Royals when he was hit for four sixes in an over by Jofra Archer, including 30 runs in the final over of the innings — the joint most expensive final over in IPL history, saw him relegated to the sidelines.

Ngidi missed the IPL last year because of injury, but in 2018 he was one of the standout performers for CSK as they emerged as the champions.

The pace bowler took 11 wickets in seven games at an economy of 6.

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