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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

RR vs CSK: Chennai spinners home away from home against Rajasthan

After another impressive win over Kolkata Knight Riders, CSK skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni compared them to ‘old wines maturing with age’.

cricket Updated: Apr 11, 2019 08:33 IST
Avishek Roy
Avishek Roy
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
File image of Chennai Super Kings players celebrating after the fall of a wicket.
File image of Chennai Super Kings players celebrating after the fall of a wicket.(AFP)
         

Imran Tahir and Harbhajan Singh have defied age and perception in this Indian Premier League. Both spinners have been vital to Chennai Super Kings’ formidable start to the season. They have plotted the downfall of opposition in tandem. Years of experience has enabled them to polish their craft, making them battle-hardened.

After another impressive win over Kolkata Knight Riders, CSK skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni compared them to ‘old wines maturing with age’.

The master tactician that he is, Dhoni has played the spin card well. Harbhajan, 38, and Tahir, 40, didn’t have a great 2018 season. When he was bought by CSK in 2018, Harbhajan had completed a successful decade with Mumbai Indians. The move was seen as a gamble when the other teams were opting for young talent.

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CSK, back after a two-year ban, proved doubters wrong by winning the title. Harbhajan took seven wickets in 13 games at an economy of 8.48 and Tahir six wickets in six matches at an economy of 9.09. This year, they have together claimed 16 wickets. Tahir has played all six games, taking nine wickets to be joint second among the top bowlers, with a superb economy rate of 5.36. Harbhajan, who has played four games, has seven wickets at an economy of 5.12.

Given that the Chennai pitch has been a slow turner, the two along with Ravindra Jadeja, have utilised the conditions to the hilt, helping CSK win all four matches at home.

Pitch conditions at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here too favour spinners. If the pitch for Thursday’s contest suggests it would help turn, Dhoni is likely to picks his spin trio. Rajasthan Royals, reeling from four losses, will then have their task cut out.

The teams are placed differently mid-season. CSK are on the top of their game. Royals have hurtled from one defeat to another. Their only victory of the season came against bottom-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore, who have lost all six games.

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The Royals have a balanced team but have not clicked. Jos Buttler is the saving grace in batting with the loss due to injury of Sanju Samson, who hit this season’s first century, has hit the balance of the side.

The one positive from their previous game against KKR was Steve Smith scoring 73. However, it came off 59 balls and RR managed just 139/3. Skipper Ajinkya Rahane hasn’t fired and their biggest buy Ben Stokes has been wobbly for the second successive season.

Bowling has a more settled look, led by two Karnataka spinners, K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal. Jofra Archer has bowled with pace and intent while Dhawal Kulkarni has been disciplined. The fifth bowler, be it Jaydev Unadkat (3 games) or Varun Aaron (one game), is a cause of concern.

CSK have so far played like a well-oiled machine. The onus will be on Royals to raise their game against the champions. They can draw inspiration from their victory over Chennai here last season.