The rise, fall and the second rise of Team Chennai in the Indian Premier League may have surprised many. But their coach Kepler Wessels said that this was expected.
“If you look at the tournament so far, most of the teams have not clearly been winning or losing all through,” he said on the eve of Chennai’s away match against Mumbai here on Tuesday. “Some teams have had their downs and come back and some have lost a few after winning.”
Chennai began their IPL campaign with a bang, winning four matches consecutively before losing three on a trot. They bounced back last week, winning their games against Delhi and then beating Mohali at home.
A win against Mumbai on Wednesday would mean they have a foot in the semi-finals. Chennai, who sit third in the league table, have 12 points from nine games and Mumbai have six from seven.
Both teams have undergone some kind of resurgence and would be eager to keep it going.
“This is a crucial tie for both because we have reached a stage where there is little margin for error,” Wessels said.
The losing streak for Chennai, unfortunately, coincided with the departure of its Australian players Matthew Hayden and Michael Hussey and the New Zealand all-rounder Jacob Oram. The three had played big roles in the first four wins.
This had prompted many to opine that the team was not the same without these three players.
With the losses, it seemed Chennai had problems aplenty. Stephen Fleming, who opened the innings, was not exactly Hayden. And the other opener Parthiv Patel too was not converting his starts into big scores. What was quite puzzling was their in-form batsmen Suresh Raina and S Badrinath were coming in too late to make a difference.
But against Delhi, in the away match, S Vidyut opened the innings and he set the ball rolling with a rollicking start. Raina and Badrinath were promoted up the order.
Badrinath responded with a 64 against Mohali, which included a 91-run stand with his captain MS Dhoni.
Wessels said on Tuesday that the new batting order is unlikely to change, which means Parthiv may sit out again.
“The three batsmen at the top - Fleming, Vidyut and Raina - have done well in the last few matches and we plan to persist with this combination against Mumbai,” said Wessels.
The South African Albie Morkel too has chipped in with useful scores.
In the bowling department, the return of Laxmipathy Balaji to the big stage, after a two- year hiatus, has been a shot in the arm for the team, which was losing its way in the league.
Having undergone surgery to correct stress fracture, Balaji played his first IPL game at the Feroze Shah Kotla in Delhi and bowled a decent spell of four overs, picking up two wickets.
He bowled a dream final over against Mohali in Chennai on Saturday, picking up a hat-trick and ending with five for 24. And rookie medium pacers Palani Amarnath and Manpreet Gony have been match-winners more often than not.
Chennai have relied on a pillar called Dhoni throughout. He has resources and has turned his team into a fighting unit. All this only adds to his being the highest run-getter of the team.
“Captaincy is very important in Twenty20,” Wessels said when asked his opinion on the return of Sachin Tendulkar, Mumbai’s skipper. “Whichever teams have a good captain have done well.”
What Wessels said about Tendulkar holds true for Dhoni also.
At the Wankhede on Wednesday, two resurgent teams will battle it out to keep their renewed momentum going.