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Chennai Super Kings: A season of misfortune and missed opportunities

article_imageIPL 2022 REVIEW
Last updated on 21 May 2022 | 05:53 AM
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Chennai Super Kings: A season of misfortune and missed opportunities

IPL 2022 saw the Super Kings fail to make the playoffs only for the second time in their history

Even before a single ball had been bowled, Chennai Super Kings’ season got off to the most inauspicious start imaginable, with the franchise losing its 14 crore signing, Deepak Chahar, to injury. At the auction table, CSK had put all their eggs in the Chahar basket, and so the injury to the talisman ended up shattering their primary gameplan. 

The moment Chahar was ruled out, everything else needed to go CSK’s way in order for them to make it to the playoffs. But Ravindra Jadeja’s incapability to handle the pressures of captaincy, Moeen Ali, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Ambati Rayudu’s indifferent form in the first half of the season and lack of depth in the pace department severely plagued the side to the extent that at no point was it in contention to make the Top Four. 

Unlike 2020, IPL 2022 was by no means an alarming campaign for CSK. But the players will certainly look back and realise that, despite all obstacles that came their way, they should have done far better than collecting just the 8 points. 

Threats that came true

Absence of depth in pace department

At the auction table, the Super Kings took a huge gamble by not purchasing a single capped Indian pacer other than Deepak Chahar. The punt ended up backfiring the moment they lost their spearhead due to injury. 

CSK began IPL 2022 losing 5 of their first 6 matches, and a good chunk of those games saw the team’s pacers get obliterated. The Super Kings began the season fielding an underwhelming pace trio of Tushar Deshpande, Adam Milne and Dwayne Bravo, and injury to Milne soon forced the franchise to throw young Mukesh Choudhary into the deep end. Though Choudhary came into his own in the second half of the campaign, he was mauled in his first five games of the season. 

Chris Jordan proved to be a major disappointment too, and after six games, the Super Kings’ pacers had the second-worst economy among all teams. 

What really hurt the side during this run was the absence of a spearhead. Though Pretorius and Bravo did well at the back end, the inability to pick wickets up-front hurt CSK. Across the first six games, CSK’s pacers, in the powerplay, took the fewest number of wickets (4), boasted the second-worst economy (8.3) and the worst average (52). 

These figures turned around in the second half of the season thanks to Mukesh’s resurgence, but by then Top 4 had already slipped out of the team’s reach. 

Doubts over Jadeja’s captaincy credentials

‘Will Ravindra Jadeja prove to be a good captain? Will he be able to deliver as an all-rounder with the added burden of captaincy?’ 

These were the two key questions that were raised when CSK, days prior to the start of the season, announced that Jadeja was taking the reins over from MS Dhoni.

In the end, ‘no’ turned out to be the answer for both questions. 

Appointing Jadeja the skipper was always going to be risky owing to the all-rounder’s lack of experience leading at the highest level. That it didn’t work out wasn’t surprising, but no one quite expected the move to bomb the way it did.

Not only did Jadeja look lost as a captain, he also looked lost as a player. And more than Jadeja the captain being bad, it was the complete no-show from Jadeja the player that hurt CSK. In the 8 matches he skippered, Jadeja averaged 22.4 with the bat while striking at 121.7, and averaged nearly 43 with the ball. A key component of the side proved to be a passenger, and the end result turned out to be a disaster for CSK. 

Players who underperformed

In terms of underperforming players, Ravindra Jadeja tops the list for CSK. Just with the bat, though, Moeen Ali arguably fared worse. Yes, this despite his sizzling 93 against the Royals on Friday.

Moeen’s middle-over bashing was integral to CSK’s success in IPL 2021, but this season he posted a solitary fifty-plus score, finishing the campaign with an average of 24.40. The Englishman, for the most part, was unable to provide the impetus in the middle, and that took the x-factor away from the Super Kings’ batting.

CSK also had players underperform in phases. Case in point Ruturaj Gaikwad. The opener rediscovered his touch in the second half of the season, but his torrid run in the first half — 108 runs in 7 innings @ 15.43 — ended up doing irreparable damage to the team’s chances. With Devon Conway forced out of the side, CSK needed Gaikwad to have a stellar season, but that didn’t quite happen. 

Ambati Rayudu is another player who largely underperformed. Rayudu did play a pair of blistering knocks, but he was unable to consistently impact the batting in a positive manner. 

Silver liningsMaheesh Theekshana undoubtedly is the biggest silver lining from IPL 2022 for the Super Kings. Few expected the Sri Lankan mystery spinner to get a game in the season, but the 21-year-old turned out to be CSK’s most consistent performer with the ball. Theekshana arguably has his best years ahead of him, and so his showing in IPL 2022 bodes really well for the four-time champions.

Devon Conway missed half the season for no fault of his, but the New Zealander, in the 7 games he played, showed that he could very well be the long-term replacement for Faf du Plessis. The question was always whether Conway would be able to replicate his Super Smash/Vitality Blast exploits in the IPL, and across seven games, the southpaw showed that he’s capable of doing it.

CSK should also see Mukesh Choudhary’s exploits with the new ball in the second half of the season as a silver lining. The young left-armer had a rough start to the season, but transformed into a powerplay king in the latter part and ended IPL 2022 as CSK’s joint-highest wicket-taker.

Unlikely heroes

Crazy as it may sound, MS Dhoni turned out to be an unlikely hero for the Super Kings in IPL 2022. Following a dismal 2020 and 2021, Dhoni was expected to be a mere specialist wicket-keeper, but the 40-year-old ended the season with 232 runs and an average of 33.14, even playing a couple of match-winning cameos. 

Barring Dhoni, Shivam Dube also was an unlikely hero for the Super Kings. Dube’s purchase was heavily criticized, but the southpaw excelled as a destroyer in the middle-overs in the first half of the season. Dube eventually fizzled out, but he showed that he could be a more-than-useful entity if utilized effectively.

Matches they will rue losing

CSK would certainly be kicking themselves for not winning the games against Lucknow and Gujarat in the first half of their campaign.

Against the Super Giants, they’d posted 210 batting first, and were in the driver’s seat with two overs to go: LSG needed 34 to win off 12 balls. There, a 25-run 19th over from Dube saw CSK snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

It was an even bigger choke against the Titans. Defending 170, CSK had reduced the Titans to 48/4, and at one point, the equation for Hardik Pandya’s side was 102 off 9 overs with David Miller the last specialist batter standing. Somehow, CSK ended up losing the game with a ball to spare, with both Miller and Rashid Khan tearing into their bowlers.

Who knows how CSK’s season might have panned out had they ended up on the winning side in these two encounters.

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