The biggest question that was being asked by CSK fans was – Can the three time champions bounce back hard and be one of the top teams in the IPL again after what happened in the 2020 edition?
TimesofIndia.com in fact ran a poll before IPL 2021, where this was one of the questions asked. Interestingly, the “Yes” and “No” options were neck and neck in terms of votes polled. But there were more people who voted saying they don’t think CSK can bounce back hard in 2021. A lot of people seemed to have written off the three time champions. But Dhoni and co. have proved them wrong in the initial part of IPL 2021 and have zoomed straight to the top of the points table.
Let’s take a quick look at how CSK performed in the first 4 matches of IPL 2020 vis a vis the first 4 games they have played this season:
The graphic below shows how the Super Kings won their first match of 2020 and then proceeded to lose the next three. Whereas, this time they began with a loss and then have regrouped very quickly and bounced back hard with three wins on the trot.
Last season, CSK began their campaign with a 5 wicket win vs Mumbai, then lost to Rajasthan by 16 runs. That was followed by a 44 run thrashing at the hands of Delhi Capitals and a narrow 7 run loss vs Sunrisers Hyderabad.
This season, their first four match win-loss record is very different. They began with a 7 wicket loss vs Delhi Capitals and since then have won three games in a row – a 6 wicket win vs Punjab, a 45 run win vs Rajasthan Royals and then a 18 run win vs Kolkata Knight Riders.
So what is working for CSK this time? Who are the big impact players who are stepping up to the plate and performing consistently?
A look at the players CSK bought at the last auction will show that among the new buys they acquired, Moeen Ali was the biggest T20 name and he has made a difference. The rest of the star performers for the team so far this season were already wearing the yellow jersey.
The four stand out performers with bat and ball for CSK so far in IPL 2021 have been – Faf du Plessis, Deepak Chahar, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran.
Curran was taken to the cleaners by Pat Cummins in their clash vs KKR on Wednesday, as he gave away as many as 30 runs in one over, but he is a very effective T20 player, with both bat and ball.
One of the big positives for CSK with the bat this year has been Faf du Plessis’s form. The South African has made sure that CSK don’t wobble too much at the top, especially with Ruturaj Gaikwad taking time to find his rhythm. His two scores before the 95* on Wednesday were 36 and 33. He is currently CSK’s leading run getter and sits in fourth position on the overall highest run getters’ list with 164 runs in 4 innings, at an average of 82 and a strike rate of over 145. He has hit 16 fours and 7 sixes so far in IPL 2021 and along with Gaikwad, (who is slowly starting to find his rhythm again, after a good showing in the UAE last year) giving CSK positive starts. In the match vs KKR on Wednesday, the first wicket partnership for CSK was worth 115 runs. Faf’s 95* on Wednesday was also his 17th half-century in the IPL and his first against KKR. This in fact was his second highest score in the IPL ever, his highest score being 96 scored against Punjab Kings in May 2019. That knock on Wednesday helped CSK register 220/3 vs KKR – their fifth highest IPL score of all time.
Another stand out player for CSK this season has been new ball bowler Deepak Chahar. Chahar was off colour in the last edition played in the UAE. In 14 matches last year he managed to take just 12 wickets. This season however he has been a true match winner for CSK, rocking opposition batting line-ups with his swing bowling. So far in 4 matches, he already has 8 wickets. What’s really interesting is that he already has two four wicket hauls, which also means that he went wicket-less in two games, but that can’t take away from the impact he has had overall. His best figures this season so far are 4/13 and he has an economy rate of 7.33. He is CSK’s highest wicket-taker so far in IPL 2021 and sits in joint second place with Delhi’s Avesh Khan in the overall list, behind only Harshal Patel of RCB, who has 9 wickets so far and holds the purple cap.
England’s Moeen Ali has also added a lot to the CSK line-up. The 33 year old all-rounder has so far taken 4 wickets in 4 matches, giving away just 57 runs, at an economy rate of under 7. His best bowling figures so far are an incredible 3/7 and he is so far CSK’s second most successful bowler in IPL 2021. With the bat, CSK have used Moeen up top and he has scored 133 runs in 4 innings so far, at an average of over 33 and a strike rate of 153.
Another piece of good news for CSK is that young Ruturaj Gaikwad seems to have hit form. His knock of 64 vs KKR on Wednesday was his first fifty this season and that will give him a lot of confidence going ahead.
Though they managed to string together a few wins on the trot towards the end of the tournament, the men in yellow finished seventh out of eight teams last season.
This time though CSK are right at the top of the points table after their first 4 games, with 6 points and an extremely healthy NRR of +1.142.
It’s always a telling stat when a team is at number one on the points table after the initial 4-5 matches. It shows that they have momentum, that they have managed to win the big moments in matches and that they are performing as a group. That is what was missing for CSK in IPL 2020.
There are still areas of course where MS Dhoni, Stephen Fleming and the team management would want to put in more work. The most important thing is to keep the momentum going. But then CSK is a team that knows what it takes to make that happen.
IPL 2021: Chennai Super Kings beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 18 runs
Their next fixture will see them take on high flying RCB on April 25 in Mumbai. It will also be a clash of Dhoni vs Virat.
The CSK revival is well and truly on. It will be very interesting to see what the next phase of league matches has in store for Dhoni and his boys.
IPL 2021, Match 15: Chennai Super Kings vs Kolkata Knight Riders
<p>Chennai Super Kings overcame Pat Cummins’ onslaught with the bat to earn an 18-run victory over Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday. (PTI Photo for IPL)</p>