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CSK’s IPL win: Three batters, Thakur, and Dhoni’s mastery of managing limitations

Setting a target is tough in T20s, especially on the tricky UAE pitches, but CSK’s Faf du Plessis, Robin Uthappa and Moeen Ali made the difference against KKR.
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MS Dhoni led Chennai Super Kings to their 4th IPL title. (CSK/Twitter)
Updated on Oct 17, 2021 10:19 AM IST
BySanjay Manjrekar

Cricket has changed over the years, in the sense that setting targets has become a more difficult thing to do. It involves first deciding in your mind, depending on the batting strength of the opposition, what the target should be and very often while trying to set that target you end up scoring a lot less on tricky pitches. The kind we had in virtually every game of the UAE leg in IPL. 

During the course of a T20 game the surface does not change much so teams chasing are left to chase down just 130 most of the times. The dew also comes down later to aid in the process. But what happened in the final was something very unique that KKR could not have foreseen. 

It started with Robin Uthappa wading into Varun Chakaravarthy and Sunil Narine like no one has done before. He hit their good balls for sixes, and when this happens the bowler just loses confidence. Narine didn't, he came back strongly, but Varun could not. 

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Exactly the same happened with Lockie Ferguson. It was Faf du Plessis who did to him what Uthappa did to the wonderful spinning duo of KKR. Lockie has been hugely successful this season by keeping it simple, hitting the deck at rapid pace and bowling within the stumps. But very early in his spell, Faf hit an incredible flat batted punch over covers and then pulled another of two stock deliveries of Lockie for consecutive fours. Now, KKR had two key bowlers, architects for their great comeback in the UAE, in a slight panic mode. 

Both could not come back in the game again and the hugely talented Moeen came in and ensured there was no bizarre turnaround of the kind we have seen aplenty this IPL. It was top quality batting by these three Chennai batters against an in-form, highly skilled, bowling attack; 192 was a big score on this surface. 

There was only one winner after this, considering KKR’s overall batting ability and current form. 

Batting, after all, was KKR’s much weaker suit, and to add to their woes, Rahul Tripathi was badly injured in the field. So, they were now one in-form batter short. Now they had only two left, yes, just two whose self-confidence was still riding high - Venkatesh Iyer and Shubman Gill. At the halfway stage there was only one winner for me. 

Shardul Thakur is in the Indian team for this exact reason - his uncanny knack of getting wickets to turn a game around. By getting Venkatesh Iyer (a real find of this IPL) and Rana he sealed any small possibility of a KKR fightback. This is the great strength of Shardul. He is unafraid to bowl in areas where you are likely to get hit for sixes, because he knows that is where wickets, against the run of play, lie too. Ashwin could take a leaf out of his book. 

The three batters and Shardul were the real heroes of CSK’s win in the final. It was CSK’s  batting that won them the final so Dhoni’s tactical contribution in the final may have been less. But if one has to look at all factors that got CSK to add another IPL title to their name, it was MS Dhoni. 

Quality-wise this for me was the poorest of all IPLs. Many big-name players could not find form through the length of the tournament and there were some really ‘past their sell by date’ players. The pitches in the UAE also meant there were no easy comebacks for these - mostly batters. 

Each team had a big contingent of players short of confidence, fitness or ability and that is why we saw so many twists in games. Once the in-form players were gone, you always had a chance as a bowling side to come back however improbable it may have looked. 

The finalists were led by two exceptional captains of this IPL - Eoin Morgan and Dhoni. This IPL also showed us that it is worthwhile having one slot for pure leadership and tactical skills with both Morgan and Dhoni hardly offering much with the bat. But they managed the significant weaknesses of their teams brilliantly. The IPL was eventually won by the team that was led by a master of managing limitations. 

Finally, credit must also be given to all those off-field workers who, against all odds, were able to complete this ‘hurdles galore’ edition of the IPL. They deserve as much credit as the players for the successful completion of IPL 2021.

Cricket has changed over the years, in the sense that setting targets has become a more difficult thing to do. It involves first deciding in your mind, depending on the batting strength of the opposition, what the target should be and very often while trying to set that target you end up scoring a lot less on tricky pitches. The kind we had in virtually every game of the UAE leg in IPL. 

During the course of a T20 game the surface does not change much so teams chasing are left to chase down just 130 most of the times. The dew also comes down later to aid in the process. But what happened in the final was something very unique that KKR could not have foreseen. 

It started with Robin Uthappa wading into Varun Chakaravarthy and Sunil Narine like no one has done before. He hit their good balls for sixes, and when this happens the bowler just loses confidence. Narine didn't, he came back strongly, but Varun could not. 

Also Read | With MS Dhoni's retirement talks buzzing, South Africa legend says 'you'll see it in two weeks time'

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Exactly the same happened with Lockie Ferguson. It was Faf du Plessis who did to him what Uthappa did to the wonderful spinning duo of KKR. Lockie has been hugely successful this season by keeping it simple, hitting the deck at rapid pace and bowling within the stumps. But very early in his spell, Faf hit an incredible flat batted punch over covers and then pulled another of two stock deliveries of Lockie for consecutive fours. Now, KKR had two key bowlers, architects for their great comeback in the UAE, in a slight panic mode. 

Both could not come back in the game again and the hugely talented Moeen came in and ensured there was no bizarre turnaround of the kind we have seen aplenty this IPL. It was top quality batting by these three Chennai batters against an in-form, highly skilled, bowling attack; 192 was a big score on this surface. 

There was only one winner after this, considering KKR’s overall batting ability and current form. 

Batting, after all, was KKR’s much weaker suit, and to add to their woes, Rahul Tripathi was badly injured in the field. So, they were now one in-form batter short. Now they had only two left, yes, just two whose self-confidence was still riding high - Venkatesh Iyer and Shubman Gill. At the halfway stage there was only one winner for me. 

Also Read | Gautam Gambhir answers whether MS Dhoni is IPL's all-time best captain, names 3 players CSK should retain for next year

Shardul Thakur is in the Indian team for this exact reason - his uncanny knack of getting wickets to turn a game around. By getting Venkatesh Iyer (a real find of this IPL) and Rana he sealed any small possibility of a KKR fightback. This is the great strength of Shardul. He is unafraid to bowl in areas where you are likely to get hit for sixes, because he knows that is where wickets, against the run of play, lie too. Ashwin could take a leaf out of his book. 

The three batters and Shardul were the real heroes of CSK’s win in the final. It was CSK’s  batting that won them the final so Dhoni’s tactical contribution in the final may have been less. But if one has to look at all factors that got CSK to add another IPL title to their name, it was MS Dhoni. 

Quality-wise this for me was the poorest of all IPLs. Many big-name players could not find form through the length of the tournament and there were some really ‘past their sell by date’ players. The pitches in the UAE also meant there were no easy comebacks for these - mostly batters. 

Each team had a big contingent of players short of confidence, fitness or ability and that is why we saw so many twists in games. Once the in-form players were gone, you always had a chance as a bowling side to come back however improbable it may have looked. 

The finalists were led by two exceptional captains of this IPL - Eoin Morgan and Dhoni. This IPL also showed us that it is worthwhile having one slot for pure leadership and tactical skills with both Morgan and Dhoni hardly offering much with the bat. But they managed the significant weaknesses of their teams brilliantly. The IPL was eventually won by the team that was led by a master of managing limitations. 

Finally, credit must also be given to all those off-field workers who, against all odds, were able to complete this ‘hurdles galore’ edition of the IPL. They deserve as much credit as the players for the successful completion of IPL 2021.

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