With only 3 wins from 10 games, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are firmly rooted to the bottom of the points table and are staring at elimination from the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2020).
Much has been said about CSK’s ageing core and how most of the team’s players are clearly past their prime, but that has been the case since their return to the IPL. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the long pandemic-enforced break might even have put CSK’s old guard on equal footing with the rest of the teams in IPL 2020.
The Men in Yellow have been hit by a number of other unprecedented issues, such as their inability to make the most of the powerplay and their struggles while trying to up the ante in the middle overs. MS Dhoni’s men now face an uphill task to qualify for the IPL 2020 playoffs, as they must win all 4 of their remaining group stage games, 3 of which are against teams currently placed in the top 4 of the points table.
Here are 3 major reasons why CSK are rooted to the bottom of the IPL 2020 points table.
#3 CSK have been hit hard by the shift in venue from India to the UAE
When the Board of Control for Cricket in India first announced that IPL 2020 would be conducted in the UAE, CSK were billed as one of the favourites to lift the trophy due to the variety and experience in their spin attack. They had even acquired Piyush Chawla for big bucks in the IPL 2020 auction, and still do possess quality options such as Imran Tahir and Mitchell Santner on the bench.
However, the pitches in the UAE haven’t offered as much grip and turn as was initially advertised, as is evidenced by the fact that the Purple Cap charts are dominated by fast bowlers.
CSK’s spinners, in particular, have been ineffective. The withdrawal of Harbhajan Singh left them without a tweaker who could take the ball away from the left-hander, and the form of leg-spinners Piyush Chawla and Karn Sharma has been disappointing. Ravindra Jadeja has failed to extract any purchase from the wickets as well, with CSK’s spinners often struggling to hit the right lengths consistently.
Moreover, the temperatures in the UAE have done nothing to aid CSK, with even the ever-fit MS Dhoni seen gasping for air earlier in IPL 2020. Had Dhoni and his men played 7 of their 14 games at Chepauk back in India, their fortunes may have been significantly different.
#2 CSK haven’t found the right team combination in IPL 2020
Perhaps for the first time in the IPL, CSK have failed to settle on the right playing XI, due to a combination of lack of form and injuries. Much of this can be attributed to the withdrawals of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh (and the bizarre decision to not sign replacements), but it’s no secret that the team has been shuffled around constantly.
Ambati Rayudu picked up an injury early on in the tournament, and missed a couple of games after his Man of the Match performance in the IPL 2020 season opener. Dwayne Bravo was also ruled out of a number of games at the start due to an injury he suffered during the Caribbean Premier League, and fell victim to a groin injury in CSK’s recent game against the Delhi Capitals.
Murali Vijay, Kedar Jadhav and Ruturaj Gaikwad have been horrific in the matches that they’ve got, while even the leg-spinners have been shuffled around due to both underperforming. Young wicket-keeper N Jagadeesan briefly promised on his IPL debut, but was dropped immediately afterward – perhaps due to MS Dhoni not seeing a ‘spark’ in him.
In what is highly uncharacteristic of them, CSK have failed to settle on the right combination even 10 games into the tournament, and this has hurt them dearly.
#1 MS Dhoni has failed to lead from the front in IPL 2020
MS Dhoni is 39 years old and hasn’t played competitive cricket since the 2019 World Cup, but he has set such high standards over the course of his illustrious career that fans and experts expected him to be at his destructive best in IPL 2020.
However, the CSK captain has been a shadow of the player he was even as recently as IPL 2019, in which he finished as the team’s leading run-getter and won them a number of matches on their way to the final. Dhoni has been bogged down in the middle overs against spinners, with even his renowned death-overs hitting failing to make itself known.
The issue that CSK currently face – their batsmen misfiring – was there last season as well.
Rayudu scored only 282 runs in 17 games and Watson averaged 23.41, while Jadhav managed only 162 runs at a pathetic average of 18 and an unspeakably poor strike rate of 95.85. Even Suresh Raina, whose absence has been spoken about on end, recorded his lowest-ever average and strike rate in a single IPL season.
Despite these obvious shortcomings, the cracks were papered over by the form of Dhoni, who scored 416 runs at an unbelievable average of 83.20 and a strike rate of 134.62. But in IPL 2020, the wicket-keeper’s average has dropped over 55 points with his strike rate taking a hit as well, and he has even dropped a couple of catches behind the stumps.
MS Dhoni has been IPL 2020’s biggest disappointment so far, but if he manages to turn things around in the 4 games that are left in the group stage, CSK could still pull off the impossible.