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Daryl Mitchell and Chennai Super Kings - a match made in heaven?

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Last updated on 21 Dec 2023 | 10:17 AM
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Daryl Mitchell and Chennai Super Kings - a match made in heaven?

Just in plain sight, Daryl Mitchell is a walking prototype of a perfect CSK player

INR 10 crore

11

11.5

11.75

The bid kept increasing.

At that point, five-time Indian Premier League (IPL) champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) entered the fray. 

Flexing their muscles, the first bid from the franchise was 12 crore. 12 crore for? 

A 32-year-old Daryl Joseph Mitchell. This is right up CSK’s alley, a veteran and someone who is quite handy - both with the bat and the ball. He is a no-nonsense cricketer and, more importantly, a team man. CSK couldn’t have picked a more apt player than Mitchell. But all of this for INR 14 crore? 

Also Read: Daryl Mitchell - The invisible backbone of Kiwi batting

It was a sight that stunned several people, including the Kiwi all-rounder, who only expected a bid this time around, having gone unsold last year. But then, to join a team that many heralded as tailor-made, Mitchell’s IPL journey couldn’t have been better placed.

“Rachin Ravindra was of interest to us, but Mitchell was a key target for us,” CSK’s head coach Stephen Fleming said at a press conference during the break at the 2024 IPL Auction. 

So, why is Mitchell a key target for the five-time IPL winners, even at 14 crore? 

At the 2024 IPL Auction, there wasn’t an Indian player of Ambati Rayudu’s calibre. Neither was there someone who fitted the consistency bill that Rayudu provided nor was there someone who had the range that the right-hander possessed. In a market devoid of such a player, CSK had to look at a no-nonsense cricketer and who better than Mitchell?

Mitchell’s T20I numbers are bang average. He has an average of 24.86 and a strike-rate of 137. With the ball, he has picked up eight wickets in his T20I career while maintaining an economy rate of 9.97. Nothing at this point suggests that Mitchell is even worth a look at the IPL level, let alone CSK’s level. 

Then, enter Mitchell’s game against spin. 

Over the last two years, in the 50-over format, where he has played a lot, including the 2023 ODI World Cup in India, the all-rounder averages 59.2 against spinners, striking at 100. And on most occasions, he was batting at No.4 and creating chaos as soon as he entered the crease. 

Amongst all the middle-order batters (4-7) at the World Cup, Mitchell had the third-best first ten ball strike-rate (110.3), showing the other team his intentions immediately. 

It is his ability to be busy at the crease. That’s where he provides CSK with something that they don’t possess. Mitchell has the best first ten-ball strike-rate over the last two years (in all T20s since 2022), at 129.4 in T20s, at least +8 over second-best Shivam Dube (121.6). 

If Mitchell is set to play, it will be at the expense of Moeen Ali, who only strikes at 119.6, taking his time to settle, and the Kiwi all-rounder is already an upgrade in batting ability. 

Even the spinners have struggled to find their line and length against the right-handed batter, who often has used his feet proactively to counter the spin. In ODIs since 2022, Mitchell has a strike-rate of 206.1 when using his feet against the tweakers, often finding a way to either get to the boundary or clear it. 

More specifically, he has scored 136 runs when charging down the track while still averaging 34, showing how his game against spin has drastically improved. Mitchell has hit 67 runs off 16 deliveries straight down the ground, with a strike-rate of 418.8. Nine sixes and two fours. 

The astonishing fact is that 66 runs have come against bowlers turning the ball away from the right-hander, with just one run against the off-spinner Agha Salman in the last two years. That shows that Mitchell’s ability down the ground is incredible and unparalleled to all the cricketers available at the auction. 

With conditions at Chepauk more or less spin-friendly, hitting straight down the ground is one of the safest options. In fact, hitting straight down the ground is one of the assets for the right-hander, who has scored over 40% of his ODI runs in front of the wicket in the last two years. 

It isn’t just his ability to jump straight back at the bowler, Mitchell’s game against spin has improved to a level where he now possesses a plethora of shots for every ball. There aren’t too many batters at the auction with such a wide range of shots at their disposal as Mitchell does. 

Name a shot? Sweep? 54 runs without a dismissal off 37 balls. Pull shot? 48 off 20. Reverse sweep? 84 off 65. 

When you look at the reverse sweeps, he was dismissed just twice, both on the stumps. The smallest of errors from the bowlers was punished effortlessly by the right-hander. It is this kind of range that CSK won’t get from any other batter at the auction. 

That isn’t it. 

Against quick leg-spinners (85+ kmph) in T20s (since 2022), Mitchell has scored 37 runs without a dismissal, striking at 176, which only goes on to prove how he could exactly fill the void left by Rayudu, who, in his IPL career, was a constant thorn in one of the all-time greats Rashid Khan’s bowling. 

Another aspect where Rayudu excelled was his game against pacers, against whom he had an IPL career strike-rate of 133.2, finding a boundary easily. In the last two years (T20s), Mitchell strikes at 141.5 against right-arm pacers and 183.9 against left-arm pacers, strengthening his case. 

Mitchell doesn’t have the best T20I record, but his numbers are top-notch from the T20 record (ball-by-ball available). An average of 30.79    with a strike-rate of 135.14 to go with a bowling average of just 23.65, with 16 wickets this year alone, that’s another all-rounder right up Dhoni’s sleeve. 

A valuable underrated aspect that Rayudu gave the five-time champions is experience. 

In that category, the Kiwi all-rounder is a massive asset. He’s played 186 T20s and 56 T20Is, which you don’t usually get in a market like this, especially after losing someone who has been an integral part of the Chennai setup over the years. 

Mitchell had to play nearly 210 domestic games before getting a national call-up, so the experience is vast, with him becoming an integral part of the BlackCaps setup across formats. His fitness level has been unparalleled, which could be one of the other significant reasons why Chennai bid hard for him. 

14 crore or not, Mitchell couldn’t have fit more snuggly like a glove in defending champions CSK’s hands.

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