Views of a Chennai Super Fan – Mr Smith comes to Chennai

Match: Chennai Super Kings vs Pune Warriors India in Chennai

Result: Pune Warriors won by 24 runs

Narrative:  

Pune’s stand-in skipper Ross Taylor won the toss and chose to bat first. Almost immediately, Aaron Finch embarked on a rampage, sending the CSK fielders on a leather hunt during the first half of PWI’s innings. Aided by the sedate Utthappa, Finch turned on an exhibition of crisp hitting, as the openers added 96 for the first wicket within 13 overs. When he got out though, CSK seemed to have clawed back as the men in yellow restricted the run rate and prised the wickets of Utthappa, Taylor and Marsh in the process. It was then, the much maligned Steven Smith who turned the heat right back on Dhoni’s men with an audacious 39 from 16 deliveries, as Pune Warriors posted 159/5 from their allotted overs.

In response, CSK got off to a terrible start when Srikkanth (junior), who replaced Mike Hussey, got out to the second delivery of the innings. From there, they kept losing wickets at inopportune times; Vijay, Badri and Jadeja failed to convert their starts, Dhoni had a rare failure and the overseas stars came undone with the bat. In the end, the men in yellow stumbled to 135/8, handing their opponents an unexpected victory.

Analysis:

Since the start of their campaign this year, Pune Warriors kept on the sidelines, the one man who was their lone bright spot during last year’s disastrous run. Steven Smith finally got a game due to the enforced absence of their regular skipper, Angelo Mathews, and once he came out to the crease made the management look like a bunch of fools for keeping him out so long. Despite Finch’s start, it was Smith’s late flourish that helped the Pune Warriors to a challenging total.

As for CSK, it seemed to be an experimental side for the game and they got their just reward for taking the opposition too lightly. Sitting out Hussey and playing one all-rounder too many was not the smartest of decisions. The bowlers for the most part did a manful job on a batting track, but the performance of the experienced Nannes and Bravo was disappointing. Nannes hasn’t really brought any oomph to the attack, which his compatriot Bollinger brought to the team when he made his IPL debut. As for Bravo, he doesn’t really offer anything that the other all-rounders don’t (except for his dancing moves) and it might be better for CSK to go with the overseas combination of Hussey-Morkel-Morris and Nannes/Hilfenhaus/Holder for future games.

As for the batting, Dhoni is justified in his anger at the post-match press conferences. For the most successful team in IPL history, to perennially struggle with the top order is frustrating; it is hard to expect Dhoni and Jadeja to perform miracles all the time. Vijay can’t seem to find the perfect balance between attack and defend while Raina is not displaying his once-famed consistency in the shortest format. These two players need to back up Hussey and Badri, if CSK are to win more games. One quarter of CSK’s campaign is over, and their record is 2-2. In a tightly packed table, they cannot afford too many slip-ups against lesser teams.

Preview of next game:

Next up, the Super Kings travel north to take on the wooden spoon owners, Delhi Daredevils. Ideally, one would think that the men in yellow would win this comfortably; but given their fondness for making every game a tight encounter, expect this to be a tough one.

Tweet of the game:

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