When MS Dhoni walked in to bat in Chennai Super Kings’s (CSK) chase of 217 against Rajasthan Royals (RR) in Match 4 of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020, the equation was 103 runs off 38 balls. Kedar Jadhav had just been dismissed and Dhoni had Faf du Plessis for company, who had been batting at less than run-a-ball on 17 off 18 balls. Was it too much already for a pair of cricketers in their late-30s and out of practice for more than five months to pull off? Not quite, as Dhoni put the blame on the openers, who, despite getting 53 in the first six overs without getting separated, didn’t give CSK a “very good start.”
“With 217 on the board, we needed a very good start which was not the case,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation.
That Dhoni walked in at the fall of the fifth wicket, having promoted Sam Curran, debutant Ruturaj Gaikwad and an equally out-of-practice Kedar Jadhav ahead of him was another point of contention.
Well, Dhoni too was out of practice. “I haven’t batted for a long time. 14-day quarantine doesn’t help,” Dhoni explained the reason for his demotion to No. 7.
In 2018, Deepak Chahar asked the CSK skipper why he wasn’t used with the old ball at the death.
“I groom youngsters” was Dhoni’s response, and the 39-year-old stuck to that mantra by promoting Curran for a second straight game.
It almost paid off as Curran teed off for 17 off six before holing out in the deep. “Also (I) wanted to try different things, give opportunities to Sam. (We) Have the opportunity to try different things. If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to your strengths,” Dhoni said.
The sixes towards the end of the CSK innings – Dhoni hit three in the final over off Tom Curran but with the game all but lost – brought some joy to the fans but did little in the way of securing CSK a second victory.
Dhoni credited the RR spinners, who didn’t make the same mistakes as their CSK counterparts and hit “the length to bowl” on a Sharjah pitch tailor-made for batting.
CSK’s spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla went for 95 runs in their eight overs as Sanju Samson – the Man of the Match for his 74 off 32 – pummelled the spin duo for sixes off deliveries that were too full and allowed Samson to get under.
“Need to give credit to their bowlers. Once you’ve seen the first innings, you know the length to bowl,” Dhoni said.
“Their spinners did well to bowl away from the batsman. Our spinners made the error to bowl too full.
“Without singling out anyone, a controllable we could have controlled is no-balls. Had we not bowled no-balls, we would have been chasing 200, and it would have been a very good game, it would’ve been a good game,” he added.
Lungi Ngidi bowled two no-balls in the final over of RR’s innings and both deliveries went for sixes.
Smith, who himself played the anchor by hitting 69 off 47 and staying till the penultimate over, credited Jofra Archer for his final-over blitz.
Archer hammered Ngidi for four back-to-back sixes in the final over and finished unbeaten on 27 off just eight balls. “I think the last surge from Jofra was an incredible bit of hitting,” said Smith after the game.
“Sanju Samson, looked like everything he hit went for six. MS (Dhoni) smacked a few in the end, and Faf (du Plessis) got going too, but nice to get a W in front of the RRs. Sanju was incredible, and all I had to do was give him the strike,” he added.
Crediting the spinners for hitting the right lengths on the pitch, Smith said: “The leg-spinners were very good with their lengths – good on them. Shreyas Gopal does what he does pretty well.”
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