CSK's success mantra: Use Dhoni's destructive powers to maximum effect
The race for berths in the play-offs gathers momentum with every passing outing. There has been a constant shift in the table with teams swapping positions, but for a while, one team has stood head and shoulders above the rest. Javagal Srinath writes.india Updated: May 04, 2013 03:47 IST
The race for berths in the play-offs gathers momentum with every passing outing. There has been a constant shift in the table with teams swapping positions, but for a while, one team has stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Even in a format as fickle as T20, the Chennai Super Kings have been a cut above. They have won nine matches thus far and already have a foot in the play-offs door, which is an astonishing accomplishment considering they still have five matches to play. After a wobbly beginning, they have won seven on the trot, which is a wonderful tribute to their consistency and understanding of the demands of the T20 format.
That should hardly come as a surprise, given that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is at the helm. From the time I first saw him in Nairobi nearly a decade back in a triangular 'A' tournament, I have followed his progress with pleasure.
In Nairobi, Dhoni came across as an uncut diamond, someone capable of brutalising the cricket ball. The passage of time has done nothing to curb his power-hitting abilities. If anything, experience at the highest level has made him an even smarter batsman, which is why he is so difficult to bowl to in the limited-overs games.
I have seen some fearsome strikers of the ball, and Dhoni is on top of my list. Through his sheer ball-striking, he has taken the game to the next level.
In this year's edition, he has reiterated that he has mastered the art of providing momentum to his team in the second half of the innings. The way he accelerates and cuts loose can be breathtaking, and he does it time after time, both while setting a target and chasing one.
What's noteworthy about Dhoni is that he has based his batting entirely around power. You won't see the cute paddles and delicate dabs. Whether the ball is there to be hit or not, he will hit it. Given his approach, it is little short of a miracle that he succeeds as often as he does.
In limited-overs cricket, the recent trend has been to target the boundary early in the over and then pick the ones and twos. With Dhoni, even that is going out of fashion.
In the early part of his innings, he works the ball around, but when he decides to let it rip, the ones and twos are farthest from his mind.
All for the team
The way Dhoni aligns his game to the team's cause is also admirable. He doesn't think so much about batting at a particular number rather than about how many deliveries are left in the innings.
Chennai and Dhoni have cleverly managed their batting order to maximise the impact of their destructive captain. They ensure, unless the start has been extraordinarily explosive, that Dhoni is around in the second half of the innings so that there is guaranteed stability to their batting in the death overs.
CSK have not been all about Dhoni. Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina too can single-handedly change the course of a game, but given that they are in a team that includes Dhoni, they will have to play second fiddle.
The writer is a former India pacer