Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devon Conway of the Chennai Super Kings. (BCCI)
Chennai Super Kings blew the remote chance they had of reaching the playoffs when the batting crumbled badly against Mumbai Indians in the previous match.
Luck wasn’t with CSK. Two lbw decisions in the first couple of overs went against them.
There was no recourse to DRS as there was a power problem at the Wankhede Stadium.
This was tough on the side, especially on a spicy pitch which gave considerable assistance to fast bowlers.
In such conditions, a solid start was imperative to notch up a defendable score. To flop for a meagre 97 highlighted the major problem afflicting CSK right through the tournament.
Apart from the preceding few matches in which Devon Conway and Ruturaj Gaikwad had struck wonderful opening partnerships, CSK’s top-order batting had been a constant worry. Occasionally, Ambati Rayudu succeeded, and once in a while Robin Uthappa or MS Dhoni, otherwise the batting had consistently been a letdown.
It wasn’t different against MI. Conway was unlucky to be given lbw to a Daniel Sams delivery which clearly looked like it would miss leg-stump.
But Moeen Ali played a loose shot in the same over, Gaikwad, Uthappa and Rayudu couldn’t stick around long and before the Powerplay was completed, CSK were 29-5 and in the doldrums.
Though young pace bowler Mukesh Chaudhary did put the MI batting under duress in a superb opening spell, it was never going to be enough to win.
Having cut a sorry figure against MI, CSK were then swamped by off-field issues. Stories have been swirling around of Ravindra Jadeja being discontented. Jadeja gave up the captaincy mid-way and has skipped the last few games because of injury. Intriguingly, he unfollowed the team’s official Twitter handle which led to speculation whether he was going to part ways with the franchise.
On Saturday, Rayudu, also a CSK stalwart, tweeted that this would be his last IPL season. Rayudu thanked both CSK and Mumbai Indians whom he represented earlier, but within minutes, deleted his original tweet leaving CSK fans – and one dare say, the management and team members – flummoxed.
What’s happening in CSK, one of the most successful teams in the IPL and also considered the most stable and coveted franchise is the question that is being widely asked.
With CSK out of contention for a place in the playoffs, they don't have much to lose in tonight’s match against Gujarat Titans. It is reasonable to believe though that these developments could hurt the team even if they would be just playing for pride.
The Titans are top of the table and have already made it to the playoffs. With only three defeats from 12 matches, their all-round strength has been in evidence right through the tournament.
On form, they are so far ahead of CSK, that it would take something special from the defending champions to win this.
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