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Wriddhiman Saha turns back the clock to thump CSK

Last updated on 15 May 2022 | 03:19 PM
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Wriddhiman Saha turns back the clock to thump CSK

There was a gulf of difference between the Super Kings and the Gujarat Titans in Mumbai

At the end of day two of the Mega Auction, the Gujarat Titans had assembled a good mix of squad but definitely, it wasn’t a squad that was going to threaten the top end. But having Jason Roy in the mix ensured that the Titans had someone to solve one of their integral issues: powerplay batting. 

And when he pulled out, just days before the tournament, it left the Titans in a spot of bother. Having Matthew Wade ensured that they could have the luxury of opening with the Australian to optimize on the first six overs. With scores of 30, 1 and 6, the experiment to open with Wade seemed like a move that wasn’t paying off a lot for the Titans. 

But bear in mind, Shubman Gill’s thundering form at the other end was masking the worries for the Titans. 

When Gill’s downfall coincided with the lack of returns for the Titans, there was a decision to make on the Australian opener. Who did they have in the reserves? Wriddhiman Saha.

The 37-year-old, over the last three years, had just played 18 IPL games and two out of the three seasons averaged less than 20. But with Saha, who hasn’t looked as good as he had since that 2013 season, it was a big gamble. 

A big gamble, that paid off! In just eight fixtures this season, the right-hander has scored 281 runs, averaging 40.14 while scoring at 123.25. However, his speciality in the franchise has been that of a powerplay basher and he has lived up to that reputation.
In the first six overs, Saha averages 95.5 with the bat, scoring at a strike rate of 138.4, scoring a boundary every 4.1 balls (third-best numbers in IPL 2022 powerplay). Further, the veteran has only been dismissed twice in the first six overs, showing why he is both reliable and explosive. In Roy’s absence, having Saha at the top of the order solved a lot of the franchise’s conundrum, it gave them a wicketkeeper, who could read Rashid Khan with aplomb.

Once again, against CSK, Saha showed what separates him from a lot of batters in the powerplay, his ability to pick boundaries with ease. During his unbeaten 67 at the Wankhede, he was at it yet again, picking apart the duo of Mukesh Choudhary and Simarjeet Singh. 

The right-hander got off to a pulsating start, scoring 12 runs off the very first over. 26 of Gujarat’s 29 runs in the first three overs were scored by Saha, scoring six boundaries even before the Chennai bowlers could find their feet. In six overs, the Gujarat opener was on 37 (23), showing his value in the first six overs. 

"I see myself as an aggressive player in the powerplay. My strength has been playing the sweep and stepping out and hitting, so that’s what I’ve been doing. The team doesn't put pressure on any individual here, so we all play freely," Saha reflected on his knock. 

While he ended with a score of just 67 off 57 deliveries, it showed yet again why and how Gujarat have optimized the best out of the veteran, giving him a long-rope in the powerplay. Three half-centuries in IPL 2022, Saha has the best returns in terms of half-centuries in the IPL. 

MS Dhoni and CSK look at the future

Four changes for the Super Kings, that’s some aberration. But with the season already ending, the question was exactly that, would MS Dhoni and co look at the franchise’s future and consider this game as a path towards that progress? 

Looking at 2023, at the toss, Dhoni said that there were four changes for the franchise. It saw Robin Uthappa, Ambati Rayudu, Dwayne Bravo and Maheesh Theekshana miss out. And in came, Narayan Jagadeesan, Prashant Solanki, Matheesha Pathirana and Mitchell Santner. 

Jagadeesan walked out to bat at No.4 and showed a great glimpse of his capability with the bat with three boundaries and a six. While he isn’t the most power-hitting batter, his strike-rate of 118.18 kept the Super Kings going, especially when runs dried up at Ruturaj Gaikwad’s end. While it is still unsure whether Rayudu is going to play next season, knowing that there is an able replacement in Jagadeesan will keep the franchise in safe hands. 

“A bit similar to Malinga. With his action, the margin of error for him is quite big. With a slingy action, he doesn't get a lot of bounce. He has got that slower one as well,” Dhoni quipped at the post-match presentation. 

It was really the two new bowlers – Solanki and Pathirana – who showed great signs in the second innings. The young Sri Lankan, whose bowling action resembles Lasith Malinga picked up a wicket off his first IPL delivery, sending back Shubman Gill. Throughout the innings, Pathirana showed great control, picking up two key wickets. 

On the other hand, Solanki kept his line tight and bowled a great four-over spell, where he only conceded 18 runs and was immaculate in his line and length, without conceding one extra. 

“We will try to give guys ample time in the middle. I feel it's important to give guys who haven't got a chance to feature in the 11,” Dhoni further stated. 

Perhaps, it isn’t all a lost cause for the Super Kings, who are now foraying into fielding newer stars keeping an eye on IPL 2023. 

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