History can provide lessons, but maybe MS Dhoni believes in the present. Still it made little sense for him to choose to bowl after winning the toss in the Sunday's final at Kolkata's Eden Gardens.
There were two reasons. The last time his Chennai Super Kings (CSK) faced Mumbai Indians (MI) in an IPL final in Kolkata in 2013, they had made a mess of a 149-run target. And they haven't been batting well in this season.
The latter should have been the biggest factor behind choosing to bat but Mumbai Indians instead were given first use of a pitch that slowed down with every passing over. By the time Dwayne Smith and David Hussey had taken stance to chase, they were finding it difficult to get past the infield. It didn't look like they had signed up for chasing the highest second highest IPL final score ever. But they were not expected to concede these many runs either.In the end, MI wrapped up victory by 41 runs.
Blame the directionless bowling of CSK and the hell Lendl Simmons, Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard unleashed on them. Together, the three scored 154 runs in 89 balls, 112 of those runs coming off just 24 hits. Chennai essentially lost it at the halfway mark.
CSK are considered the most successful side in the tournament's history. But their conversion, only two titles out of five finals before this one, doesn't reflect that. Suresh Raina was evasive when asked at the pre-final press conference: "You know two teams play and one has to win. I think pressure is going to be there but you need to play to your merit and work hard on your game. I think whichever team gets nervous it is going to lose the battle."
He was right. They are too good a team to come second in all departments and hence those fabulous dismissals affected out of nothing. By flicking the ball underarm towards the stumps, despite an injured finger, Faf du Plessis produced an unbelievable run out of Parthiv Patel. Then Raina showed brilliance in running from the fence and diving forward to catch Hardik Pandya.But between those two dismissals, Chennai looked nervous under pressure. It showed when each of their main bowlers went for runs. As if Rohit's pounding wasn't enough, Simmons too uncorked huge shots at the other end. It forced Dhoni to opt for Smith, who did get Simmons but then dropped a sitter off Ambati Rayudu. Pressure showed again when an impatient Raina was tricked into a stumping by Harbhajan Singh. This time, Dhoni didn't take the losing battle to the last over. And once again CSK picked the wrong match to needlessly expose themselves to pressure.