CSK’s Perfect Game
As Shane Watson had predicted on his Twitter page, a perfect game for CSK was around the corner. And that is how it turned out against a struggling KXIP.
Talking about his plan going into the match, Watson spoke on 'The debrief' that from the footage of the last four innings, he observed that the biggest drawback was his head position. It was right in front of his front leg, compared to being right at the ball during his more successful innings in the past. Learning from this, he ensured that his head moved more aggressively towards the bowler to transfer more weight on his front foot and be more attacking.
Thus, a 10-wicket win and Watson being among the runs again ensured that the diminishing ray of hope for CSK this season flickers for a while longer.
A Skewed Approach
CSK’s head coach, Stephen Fleming said after the game against KXIP, “We are reticent to change the team. If it's not going well, we will fix the area we are not happy with and will try and improve it and if it by changing players we will do it”
Backing their players has been a mantra for CSK. Though there is an evident bias of this lauded strategy towards the batsmen. Ask Lungi Ngidi who is warming the bench since his bad day against RR despite being the only bowler so far to contain Kieron Pollard at the death. Or Imran Tahir, who is yet to play a game despite being the Purple Cap winner last year.
Over the years, CSK have been the best spin-bowling side in the IPL. While their home ground being Chepauk contributed to this, the additional reason was the class of the spinners in their mix. Devoid of the services of Harbhajan Singh and the absence of Tahir from the XI, CSK spinners have the second-worst economy this season – 9.2.
Being an overseas player complicates Tahir’s inclusion. However, it is bizarre that their leading wicket-taker last season has not found a place yet. The argument that the pacers have done well than spinners so far in this tournament has merit. The two sides that stand out so far – DC and MI – have dominated through their pacers. But, the pacers in their side are express and not the gentle medium like Dwayne Bravo.
While Watson has the limelight on him, the biggest positive for CSK in the last two games has been Deepak Chahar. With little impact in the first three matches, Chahar found the swing through which he made a name for himself.
As for the others apart from him, CSK need to add some spice with either Tahir or a proper pacer if they are to be threatening with the ball again. While the win hides their flaws for now, they need a lot more to avoid it from being a fluke.
Should KKR look beyond Narine?
Opening the batting with Sunil Narine has been an everlasting debate. One half feels that he is a nothing to lose choice while the other half feels that he disturbs the position of other batsmen.
From what we have seen from him so far, the concern with Narine should be broader. Should KKR even play him in the XI?
Opening the batting he has scored 27 runs in 31 balls so far. Only Riyan Parag has a worse average than his 6.75. These are 31 balls in a period of fielding restrictions that a proper batsman could have used better. At his primary role with the ball, Narine has two wickets in four games and has an economy rate of 8.5.
Though it might be too early to call but, KKR can look beyond Narine and include a proper opening batsman like Tom Banton. Or, follow the more aggressive approach and put Rahul Tripathi at his rightful place at the top of the order and add an additional overseas bowler. A bowler with a similar style – Chris Green – and pacers like Lockie Ferguson and Ali Khan are waiting as replacements.
Taking Aggression Too Far
Since 2018, KKR were the most expensive bowling unit by a distance. Setting the record straight, they adopted an aggressive option to bolster their XI with more bowling options. In their second and third game, they went in with seven genuine bowling options – four pacers and three spinners.
Their rookie spinner, Varun Chakravarthy, proved to be a good foil to accompany Narine and Kuldeep Yadav. While their young pacers, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi have bowled well alongside Pat Cummins. If we exclude the games in the batting paradise in Sharjah, KKR pacers have the best economy in the tournament so far – 7.9.
While their aggressive approach with the ball paid off, the same with the bat has hurt them so far. Amid constant calls of promoting him, Andre Russell batted at number 4 in the last two games and could not impress. The disappointing aspect was his failure to read the game situation as he played a needless shot to try and clear the off-side fence against RR. Against DC, he attacked Kagiso Rabada early on and paid the price. He can learn from his countryman, Pollard, who blocked Rashid Khan in the 16th over.
Similarly, an experiment to promote Dinesh Karthik has not worked yet. Neither of the positions 3, 4 and 5 has suited him so far as he averages 9.25 this season. Over the years, it has been clear that Karthik is a better player when he comes to bat later in the innings as suggested by his strike-rate of 217.1 at number 6 since 2018.
KKR will be better off with an alteration to their batting order. If we go by the theory that the best batsman should be batting the most balls then that batsmen should be Eoin Morgan. They cannot ask for a better anchor for their side at number four.
KKR – Rahul Tripathi, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (c&wk), Sunil Narine, Pat Cummins, Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Varun Chakravarthy
CSK – Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (c&wk), Sam Curran, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Piyush Chawla