Captain cool Dhoni takes it rather too easy; CSK dethroned from top spot

Kolkata Knight Riders' captain Dinesh Karthik as he leaves the field after win the IPL 2018 cricket match against Chennai Super Kings at Eden Garden in Kolkata. Photo: PTI
Hard-earned success is rare, and it brings fame, but complacency can be its undoing. Returning to the Indian Premier League (IPL) after a two-year ban, all eyes were on Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and its celebrated captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. And they have not disappointed on most occasions. However, in their match against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Thursday, Dinesh Karthik's men seemed to have caught CSK and MSD napping and delivered the blow.

Karthik got everything right – from toss to the match result. Having won the toss and inviting the visiting team to bat first, he managed to keep his team in order right from the word go. It was clear that the pitch was not meant for fast bowlers. Spinners were introduced and there began the miseries for CSK’s overseas batsmen. Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis failed to give the flying start they were expected to. Both struggled against Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine, eventually giving their wickets to the turners.

CSK batsmen struggled as they were not able to play the spin at all. Even as they attacked the pacers, they could not keep the momentum going. They lost five wickets, and all of them to spinners. The CSK batsmen who got good starts failed to convert those into big scores. To realise the goal of a huge total, at least one batsman needed to play the role of the anchor and see the innings through. This is what people expected from MSD. But he failed yesterday. Though he top-scored for CSK with 43 runs, his efforts were too little too late. KKR used spinners in the last three over and not many runs were scored in the death. 

Ambati Rayudu later said that the ball was not coming on to the bat. Jadeja not only failed to score much but also was an embodiment of disappointment at many levels. He scored run a ball 12, but that is not what CSK would expect of him, especially towards the end of the innings; he is in the team for his hard-hitting, game-changing cameos. Batsmen did not change gears when it was needed, and CSK managed to get only 177-5.

There were clear signs of how the pitch would behave – Dhoni failed to read them. When your team loses all the wickets its does to spinners, it is a big indication that spinners are going to hold the key when you come out to bowl. But Dhoni dreamt of unlocking the door of victory with pacers.

Lungi Ngidi was hammered in the first over itself. And then the despicable happened. Young K M Asif came in to bowl – and he bowled brilliantly, luring Narine into playing silly shots – but Jadeja, normally considered a live wire on the field, dropped easy catches on back-to-back deliveries. Two catches went down in two balls – neither Asif nor anyone else in the stadium could believe what they saw. The dropped catches cost CSK 29 runs.

Though Asif was rewarded with Robin Uthappa's wicket, he conceded runs, too. Jadeja managed to take Narine's wicket eventually, but Dhoni was still not able to understand that he needed to deploy spinners. Harbhajan Singh checked the run flow and Rinku Singh failed to score even run-a-ball before being dismissed for 16. The use of Karn Sharma, again, was too little and too late: Just one over for him, and that too after 15 overs.

Harbhajan had an economy of under 7 in the three overs he bowled. Why was he not given his full quota? Why was he not paired with Karn Sharma for a spell of spin from both ends? Why only 8 overs of spin by CSK when KKR spinners bowled 12? There definitely is some answering for Dhoni to do.

Barely had poor Asif overcome the trauma of two dropped catches when he was handed the ball for another over and he was bashed for 21 runs. Mitchell Johnson was not spared, either. In four overs, the pacers leaked 54 runs. Their tactics failed and Dhoni stood behind the wickets with a blank face.

When Shubman Gill was playing a brilliant knock and solidifying his place in KKR, Dhoni was actually doing nothing. He was not marshaling his troops or laying a trap for the young talent. It seemed he had given up. Or was he just overconfident that the match would turn in his favour no matter what? The 6-wicket defeat is more a doing of laid-back captaincy than the mistakes of the rest of the team. This defeat puts CSK on the second spot on Vivo IPL points table. If nothing more, this should be a wake-up call for Dhoni to reinvent his captaincy.

Chennai Super Kings' captain MS Dhoni plays a shot against Kolkata Knight Riders during IPL 2018 cricket match at Eden Garden in Kolkata. Photo: PTI

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