The biggest question asked by CSK fans was – Can the three time champions bounce back hard and be one of the best teams in the IPL again after what happened in the 2020 edition?
TimesofIndia.com actually conducted an opinion poll before IPL 2021, where this was one of the questions asked. Interestingly, neck and neck were the “Yes” and “No” options in terms of votes surveyed. But more people voted saying they don’t think CSK can bounce back hard in 2021. Many people seemed to have eliminated the three time champions. But Dhoni and co. proved incorrect in the initial part of IPL 2021 and zoomed straight to the top of the points table.
Let’s take a quick look at how CSK performed in the first 4 games of IPL 2020 vis and vis the first 4 games they have played this season:
The graphic below shows how the Super Kings won their first game in 2020 and then went on to lose the next three. However, this time they started with a loss and then they have re-grouped very quickly and bounced back hard with three wins on the trot.
Last season, CSK started their campaign with a 5 wicket victory against Mumbai, then lost to Rajasthan by 16 runs. That was followed by a 44 run clash at the hands of the Delhi Capitals and a narrow loss of 7 runs against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
This season, their first four-game win-loss record is very different. They started with a 7 wicket loss against Delhi Capitals and have since won three games in a row – a 6 wicket victory against Punjab, a 45 run victory against Rajasthan Royals followed by an 18 run victory against Kolkata Knight Riders.
So what works for CSK this time around? Who are the big impact players who step up to the plate and perform consistently?
A look at the players who bought CSK at the last auction will show that, among the new purchases they have received, Moeen Ali was the biggest T20 name and has made a difference. The rest of the star performers for the team so far this season were already wearing the yellow jersey.
The four stand out performers with bats and balls for CSK so far in IPL 2021 have been – Faf du Plessis, Deepak Chahar, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran.
Curran was taken to the cleaners by Pat Cummins in their clash against KKR on Wednesday, as he gave away as many as 30 runs in one over, but is a very effective T20 player, with bats and a ball.
One of the big positives for CSK with the bat this year has been the form of Faf du Plessis. South Africa has ensured that CSK does not stray too much at the top, especially with Ruturaj Gaikwad take time to find its rhythm. His two scores before the 95 * on Wednesday were 36 and 33. He is currently CSK’s leading run kicker and sits in fourth place on the overall top receivers list with an average of 164 runs in 4 flyers of 82 and strike rate. of over 145. He has hit 16 fours and 7 sixes so far in IPL 2021 and along with Gaikwad, (who is slowly starting to find his rhythm again, after a good showing in the UAE last year ) giving CSK positive startups. In the game against KKR on Wednesday, the first wicket partnership for CSK was worth 115 runs. 95 * Faf Wednesday was also his 17th half-century in the IPL and his first against KKR. This was actually his second highest score in the IPL ever, and his highest score was 96 against the Punjab Kings in May 2019. That beat on Wednesday helped CSK register 220/3 vs KKR – their fifth IPL score highest ever.
Another standout player for CSK this season has been new ball bowler Deepak Chahar. Chahar was off color in the last issue played in the UAE. In 14 games last year he managed to capture just 12 wickets. This season, however, he has been a real game winner for CSK, swinging opponents batting linemen with his swing bowling. So far in 4 games, he already has 8 wickets. What’s really interesting is that he already has two four-wicket matches, which also means he went without a wicket in two games, but that can’t detract from the impact he has had overall. His best figures this season so far are 4/13 and he has an economy rate of 7.33. He is CSK’s highest wicket taker so far in IPL 2021 and sits second with Delhi’s Avesh Khan in the overall list, behind only RCB’s Harshal Patel, who has 9 wickets so far and n holding the purple cap.
Moeen Ali from England has also added a lot to the CSK line. To date, the 33-year-old player has tallied 4 wickets in 4 games, conceding just 57 runs, at an economy rate of under 7. His best bowling figures to date are an incredible 3/7 and to date CSK’s second most successful bowler in IPL 2021. With the bat, CSK has used Moeen up top and has scored 133 runs in 4 flyovers so far, averaging over 33 and a rate strike of 153.
Another piece of good news for CSK is that it seems that young Ruturaj Gaikwad has reached his form. His beat of 64 vs KKR on Wednesday was his first fifty this season and that will give him a lot of confidence going forward.
Although they managed to pull together a few victories towards the end of the tournament, the men finished in yellow seventh out of eight teams last season.
This time though CSK is at the top of the points table after their first 4 games, with 6 points and an extremely healthy NRR of +1.142.
It’s always a telling stat when a team is number one on the points table after the initial 4-5 games. It shows that they have momentum, that they have won the big moments in games and that they are performing as a group. That was what was missing for CSK in IPL 2020.
There are still areas of course where MS Dhoni, Stephen Fleming and the team managers would want to do more work. The most important thing is to keep the momentum going. But then CSK is a team that knows what it takes to make that happen.
01:08IPL 2021: Chennai Super Kings beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 18 runs
Their next match will see them take on a high-flying RCB on April 25 in Mumbai. It will also be a clash of Dhoni vs Virat.
The CSK revival is progressing well. It will be very interesting to see what the next phase of league games have in store for Dhoni and his boys.
IPL 2021, Game 15: Chennai Super Kings vs Kolkata Knights
Chennai Super Kings overcame Pat Cummins’ attack with the bat to earn an 18 run victory over Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday. (PTI photo for IPL)