At the halfway stage during the run-chase, Royal Challengers Bangalore were running away with the target at 121/2. Glenn Maxwell was on 59 off 27 balls, and RCB’s skipper Faf du Plessis on 51 off 24 balls, with the two taking the attack to the Chennai Super Kings’ bowling unit.
None of MS Dhoni’s tactics against the two had worked, including bowling the Sri Lankan, Matheesha Pathirana, who gave away 16 runs in his second over. At the 12th over mark, RCB were 141/2, and that’s when Dhoni threw a dice, bringing on Maheesha Theekshana. And off the first ball, Theekshana struck removing the dangerous Maxwell.
Dhoni at the post-match presentation said that RCB would have won this contest fair and square, in the 18th over had Faf and Maxwell not been dismissed at that crucial juncture in the contest.
“Whenever you score 220, the batsmen have to keep on hitting. It's a matter of few overs in the middle. If Faf and Maxi had continued, they'd have won by the 18th over, so you need to get engrossed with the process, know what is the bowling change, what can I do from which end, what is really happening, if something has really changed,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation.
One of the biggest positives for Chennai apart from the big win is the form of Shivam Dube. Dhoni revealed that ‘Dube’ is a project that Chennai Super Kings are consciously working on, and insisted that his game against spin is quite an asset for the franchise.
“Dube is a clean hitter, yes, he has an issue with the fast bowlers but is a tall guy with a different (longer) reach when compared to other batters. So, the spinners have to adjust their lengths, and we had plans for him. But he was injured when he came for the camp. He needs to believe that he can score runs in the middle overs more than us because he has the talent and once you cross the ropes you're alone,” he added.
On the surface in play here at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Dhoni reckoned that it is important for teams to keep the ‘dew’ factor in mind. However, for teams batting first like Chennai on the day, there was a bit of ‘tackiness’ on the surface that prevented them from attacking through and through.
"When you come here, you know it's a wicket and there is dew in the early part of the IPL. You want to get extra runs but you want to keep it as a thought You want to start well and then look to alter [to reach] what you have in your mind,” Dhoni insisted.
“I feel the wicket was slightly tacky to start off, the first 2-3 overs the fast bowlers get a bit of help. So you want to go through that and then look to accelerate and maybe look to get a par score, not par plus and end up at 165-170. We kept it simple and tried to get as much as possible.”
When asked about the bowling changes, the wicketkeeper-batter reckoned that it is easier for him from behind the wickets to judge the conditions.
“I can see it better from close by, so I can know if there is deflection off the wicket for the spinners or quicks. I am always involved in what needs to be done. If I can provide bowlers a good field and give nice suggestions, that's a win for me.”
Chennai have had struggled with their pace-bowling unit but the emergence of Tushar Deshpande, Matheesha Pathirana and Akash Singh has immensely benefitted the franchise. But Dhoni insisted that it is Dwayne Bravo, Chennai’s bowling coach’s task to take care of that. At the same time, the 41-year-old reckoned that the bowlers have to back their strength.
“Handling youngsters at the death is a difficult challenge because there is a lot of pressure, especially with the dew. They are working very hard. So they need to know the process, know what they're doing. Bravo is a specialist, under him bowlers will gain confidence, he will give them alternate plans. I feel overall it is a team game, and the coaches guide us to what is our strength. We keep on saying, 'whatever your strength is, keep working at that.' What you need to say is you get hit on a good plan than start bowling on a bad plan. The differentiation needs to be there."