Dhoni bats one spot up, at No.6, but CSK lose again

After being criticised for coming into bat too late against Rajasthan Royals (RR), Chennai Super Kings (CSK) skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni promoted himself one spot, to No.6, against Delhi Capitals (DC) on Friday, but to no avail. The result for his team was the same: a comprehensive defeat.

Dhoni, who turned 39 in July, couldn’t get going and at times failed to connect bat to ball as well. In fact, when he walked into bat after Kedar Jadhav’s wicket which reduced Chennai to 98/4 in the 16th over, the asking rate was already looking almost insurmountable.

Dhoni could only managed a 12-ball 15 (2x4s) before wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant caught him off Kagiso Rabada. The DC bowlers, despite a couple of dropped catches, restricted a lacklustre CSK to 131/7 in 20 overs and emerged victorious by 44 runs.

“I don’t think it was a good game for us. There was no dew, but the wicket did slow down. We are lacking a bit of steam in the batting and that hurts. The run rate keeps on mounting after such slow starts and adds pressure, we need to figure that out. We need to come back with a clearer picture, looking at the combination,” said a disappointed Dhoni said during the post match presentation.

While it is true that Dhoni is master at chasing totals, with a calculative mind at work. He has done that many times. But Friday one of those days when even for a seasoned campaigner like him it was beyond his reach. The debate will now rage about Dhoni’s decision of coming so low down the order, even at No.6. Will he come at No.4 or No.5 if the next time CSK chased a similar total? Only time will tell.

Remember, Dhoni returned to competitive cricket after 437 days when he took the field for IPL opener on September 19. His last competitive match was last year’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand on July 9.

CSK, who are at times referred to as ‘Dad’s Army’ for their 30-plus average age, now have two points from three matches, having won a solitary game, against Mumbai Indians. On the other hand, DC have won both their matches so far and are now on top of the points table with four points.

Dhoni was relieved that his team would now get a six-day gap, during which his players would do match simulation, before playing their next match against Sunrisers Hyderabad on October 2 in Dubai.

“Maybe, the team balance will get better once [Ambati] Rayudu comes back in the next game. That will give us the room to experiment with an extra bowler perhaps. There are quite a few things we can think about. We are one batter extra to start off, so the players need to step up. We need to get better with our lengths, lines and pace. I think the spinners have not come to the party yet. We are bowling good deliveries, but we are giving away the boundary deliveries bit too often,” he said on Friday.

Earlier, on Tuesday, in the match against 2008 champions Royals, Dhoni had batted at No.7 and remained unbeaten on 29 off 17 balls as the overs ran out for his team. CSK finished at 200 for six wickets in 20 overs while chasing Royals’ 216/7 in 20 overs, losing by 16 runs at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah, on Sunday.

“With 217 on the board, we needed a very good start which was not the case. Steve and Samson batted very well. Need to give credit to their bowlers. Once you’ve seen the first innings, you know the length to bowl. Their spinners did well to bowl away from the batsman. Our spinners made the error to bowl too full. If we would’ve maybe restricted them to 200, it would’ve been a good game,” Dhoni had said after losing to the Royals.

On his decision to bat at No.7, Dhoni had said on Tuesday: “I haven’t batted for a long time. Fourteen-day quarantine doesn’t help (why he isn’t batting higher). Also wanted to try different things, give opportunities to Sam [Curran]. Have the opportunity to try different things. If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to your strengths. Faf [de Plessis] adapted very well. Something the batsmen will do, neglect square leg and go more towards long-on and long-off.”