While the top-order batting has clicked, it is basically the genius of captain MS Dhoni that is keeping CSK in the hunt for a top-four berth.
Take the Royals Challengers Bangalore game, for example. Defending 227 on a batting paradise, CSK were well and truly on the ropes with Glen Maxwell and Faf du Plessis plundering the Chennai attack. The spinners were leaking runs everywhere and by the 15th over, had it been any other captain, he would have brought slinger Matheesha Pathirana back for a second spell. But Dhoni knew it was pointless to try and defend against Maxwell and Faf. So he chose to attack with spinners Mahesh Theeksana and Moeen Ali on a small ground.
“The way Faf and Maxi were playing, if they had been around, the game would have been over by the 18th over. So you need to get engrossed with the process and know what is the bowling change that is required from which end,” Dhoni said.
He asked both Theeksana and Moeen to bowl slower through the air. It invited Maxwell and Faf to try for the slog over mid-wicket, resulting in top-edges that went high in the air. It needed the calmness of Dhoni to complete those skiers and bring CSK back in the game.
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RCB still had Dinesh Karthik and Shahbaz Ahmed around and Dhoni had a huge task of defending an asking rate of just about 10, which should have been a cakewalk for the hosts. But MSD insisted that his pacers Tushar Deshpande and Pathirana stick to the wide yorker line, even if they concede a couple of wides here and there.
“If I can provide bowlers a good field and give nice suggestions, that’s a win for me. Handling youngsters at the death is a difficult challenge because there is a lot of pressure, especially with the dew. They are working very hard and they need to know the process, know what they’re doing,” Dhoni said.
While Monday was about handling his young guns on the field, the way Dhoni has handled his seniors has been a masterclass in itself. He knows the importance of a No. 3 who has experience and that is why he has brought in Ajinkya Rahane, considered a discard by most franchises.
Rahane, just like Robin Uthappa at CSK, seems to have got a second wind and is playing with freedom. Shivam Dube, another discard with a problem against the short ball, has also been brilliantly used by Dhoni to take on spinners in the middle-overs.