Published 18 Mar 2019, 12:11 IST
If there is a list of great comebacks, CSK’s re-entry into IPL in the grandest of styles last season would certainly stake a strong claim for the top spot. After a 2-year hiatus, the Whistle Podu fans could not have asked for a better return to the IPL fold.
There has been understandable concern among players, Indian team management, and fans alike regarding players’ workload leading into the ICC World Cup. The flip side of the coin is that IPL is perhaps the perfect opportunity for the players to work towards or maintain a high level of skill by squaring up against some of the toughest competitors from across the globe.
Ultimately, net practice simulations may not be the most effective alternative to executing various skills consistently in a high-pressure environment. It boils down to the players making some good decisions in consultation with the physios, coaches, and management as to how many matches they can function well without breaking down from a heavy workload.
2019 has a lot in store with the General Elections in addition to ICC World Cup, but it all starts with the IPL extravaganza when CSK face RCB in Chennai on the 23rd of March.
A deep dive into CSK’s 2018 stats and a preview to the 2019 edition will warm us up perfectly for another exciting season.
Opening and 100+ partnerships
Execution of fundamentals, however short the format is, always plays a huge role in a team’s success. Solid partnerships at the top are crucial for late flourishes. Ambati Rayudu, who scored approximately 22.5% of the team’s runs, had a prolific career-changing season in 2018. He provided the team with a perfect balance through his flexibility to play substantial innings at the top and in the middle. CSK’s average opening partnership of 37 was next only to KXIP’s 45. In forging the most 100+ partnerships, they were joint-second with RCB(3), behind the runners-up Sunrisers (4)
CSK had 8 distinct Man of the Match winners,-the most for any team last season. The visuals of different players stepping up and playing some breathtaking knocks instantly resurface our mind. If an “Impact” player is defined as a batsman who scored more than 200 runs in the season at a strike rate of 150 or more, CSK had one in the form of Shane Watson, who blazed his way in the final with a century against arguably the best bowling attack. Interestingly, KKR had two out of the three Impact players of IPL 2018 in their ranks: the Caribbean stars Andre Russell and Sunil Narine. No wonder, they had an impressive 2018 with the bat.
Fours and sixes form a vital part of the entertainment factor, more so in the shortest format of Cricket. They are also a key aspect of T20 batting in terms of putting pressure back on the opposition bowlers and captain through big hits. CSK hit as many as 62 fours and 54 maximums, second only to KKR (70 fours and 92 sixes). In fact, KKR scored 28.5% of their total runs in boundaries!
Remarkable “Finishing” stats
CSK lost on average one wicket in the last 4 overs over the 2018 season, which was the lowest of all the teams. They overhauled a mammoth total of 205 against RCB, the highest successful chase in IPL 2018 and achieved the second-best average run rate of 8.88 (behind Delhi Capitals’ 9.09). They absolutely lit up the tournament, courtesy unbelievably intriguing finishes (53.25 runs on an average in the slog overs). A required run rate of 10 or more in the last 5 overs while chasing can be daunting, but this team thrived on such challenges and won 3 out of 5 such encounters.
A CSK match is not over until it is over.
In the 5th match of IPL 2018, CSK did not get off to a great start against KKR, as the prediction heartbeat suggests below. The pressure added up even more so after the power-play. While the AI algorithms didn’t give CSK more than 20% likelihood of a win for most of the second half, CSK turned the tables with 19 runs in the last over to clinch an absolute humdinger. Dhoni’s blueprint of finishing a match clearly had an impact on his teammates.
The nerves must have gotten to the bowlers from opposition teams as 75 wides/no-balls were bowled to CSK’s batters in total last year!
There were two instances when CSK lost three or more wickets inside the Power Play. Some of their top order batters proved that they were human after all. However, it augurs well for CSK as they were able to pull off wins on both occasions!
What to expect from CSK’s batting
CSK had the second-highest Average 1st innings score of 187(KKR’s was 191). Overall, Chennai’s top 7 along with the batting reserves looks formidable for 2019 as well. The fact that there have been no run-outs in the entire 2018 season will be pleasing for perhaps the quickest man, Dhoni. The skipper would also hope that he continues to have the rub of the green with the coin toss as he had the least coin toss losses! On a more serious note, Dhoni rediscovered his mojo with the bat last IPL and would be eyeing for a stellar season to cap off preparations for the World Cup.
If we cast an eye over the bowling, the stocks would be bolstered with the availability of Malinga-like golden-armed spinner in Kedar Jadhav! The numerous bowling options that CSK has is a prospect that Virat would gleefully welcome for Team India for the World Cup campaign. CSK picked up the second most number of wickets (99) and had the second-best Bowling Strike Rate of 20.5 only behind SRH (105 wickets and a bowling S/R of 18.9). CSK trumped even the mighty SRH to record the most maiden overs (4) in the 2018 edition.
The bowling stars for CSK have primarily been youngsters Deepak Chahar and Lungi Ngidi. They adapted extremely well according to the conditions on offer and conceded just 6.8 and 5.5 runs per over (on an average) respectively in the first 6 overs. Chahar swung the ball beautifully and built up the pressure as indicated by the stat that a whopping 46% of his deliveries were dot balls.
How have CSK fared in 2018?
They did not have a bucket load of one-sided victories – their best win in terms of balls left was a win with 12 balls to spare against RCB. But, considering how often teams find themselves perilously short of the finish line in T20 cricket, what matters is that CSK were able to take care of the result more often than not. Their worst defeat in terms of runs was a 34 run loss against the Capitals, not quite an alarming one.
SRH has always been a fantastic bowling unit in the IPL and last year was no different. The Orange Army won 6 matches despite losing the toss (more than any other team last season) and defended a score as low as 118. However, the table-toppers’ nemesis was undoubtedly CSK as they could not muster a win against the Super Kings in four attempts; RCB were the other team that could not taste success against CSK in 2018.
After a disappointing turn of events in their first home match at the Chepauk Stadium, CSK’s home venue had to be shifted to Pune. It can be very difficult for passionate fans to be missing out on action and for the players to play at an adopted home venue. Yet, their home vs away record was phenomenal with 6 home wins and 5 away wins. The Average 1st innings score of 195 at home was, in fact, the highest among all teams and that of 178 at away venues was second only to KKR.
CSK’s mantra to success
Although the Men in Yellow were second in the pecking order in terms of bowling records, one can only imagine the reason behind their coveted title triumph-they were among the top two teams in both the batting and bowling departments.
One of the major talking points prior to IPL 2018 has been around the average age of CSK squad being significantly higher than the others. But, they have done it and shown the world, the pivotal role that experience could play in getting the job done.
Preview to 2019:
CSK, for the most part, have had to observe the proceedings in the 2019 player auction as they retained almost the entire squad. However, Mohit Sharma, a former CSKian was bought by Stephen Fleming and co. and is expected to add depth and variety to the death bowling resources.
IPL can be a very demanding tournament as even a captain like MS Dhoni who likes to keep things simple had the same playing XI only for two consecutive matches. But, the squad looks well-rounded with all bases covered and the talismanic captain would not mind repeating last year’s triumph.
Interesting stat from 2018: All the teams managed to score 200+ in an innings at least once last season. It is time to buckle up as we are in for some fireworks this time too!