The biggest question asked by CSK fans was: Can the three-time champions jump back hard again after what happened in the 2020 edition and be among the top teams in the IPL again?
In fact, TimesofIndia.com conducted a survey prior to IPL 2021 where this was one of the questions asked. Interestingly, the yes and no options were tied in terms of votes cast. But there were more people who voted and said they don’t believe CSK can bounce back hard in 2021. Many people seemed to have written off the three-time champions. But Dhoni and Co. have proven them wrong in the first part of IPL 2021 and have zoomed straight to the beginning of the points table.
Let’s take a quick look at how CSK has fared in the first four games of IPL 2020 versus the first four games of this season:
The graph below shows how the Super Kings won their first match in 2020 and then lost the next three. While this time they started with a defeat and then regrouped very quickly and rebounded hard with three wins at a trot.
Last season, CSK started its campaign with a 5-wicket win over Mumbai and then lost to Rajasthan by 16 runs. This was followed by a 44-run run against Delhi Capitals and a narrow 7-run loss against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
This season, the win-loss record in the first four games is very different. They started with a 7-wicket loss to Delhi Capitals and have since won three games in a row – a 6-wicket win over Punjab, a 45-run win over Rajasthan Royals and then an 18-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders.
What works for CSK this time? Who are the big hitters who step on the record and perform consistently?
A look at the players CSK bought at the last auction shows that among the new purchases they made, Moeen Ali was the biggest T20 name and it made a difference. The remaining stars of the team already wore the yellow jersey this season.
The four outstanding performers with bat and ball for CSK in the IPL 2021 were – Faf du Plessis, Deepak Chahar, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran.
Curran was brought by to the cleaning staff Pat Cummins in their fight against KKR on Wednesday when he gave away up to 30 runs in one over, but he is a very effective T20 player with both bat and ball.
One of the big perks for CSK with the bat this year was the shape of Faf du Plessis. The South African has made sure that CSK doesn’t wobble too much at the top, especially at Ruturaj Gaikwad take your time to find your rhythm. His two results before Wednesday’s 95 * were 36 and 33. He is currently CSK’s lead run getter and is fourth on the list of highest run getters with 164 runs in 4 innings with an average of 82 and a hit rate of over 145 So far, he has met 16 foursomes and 7 sixes in the IPL 2021 and together with Gaikwad (who is slowly getting back to his rhythm after a good performance in the UAE last year) CSK got off to a positive start. In Wednesday’s match against KKR, CSK’s first wicket partnership was worth 115 runs. Fafs 95 * on Wednesday was also his 17th half century in the IPL and his first against KKR. This was, in fact, his second highest IPL score of all time, his highest score being 96 against Punjab Kings in May 2019. That blow on Wednesday helped CSK register 220/3 against KKR – their fifth highest IPL score of all time.
Another standout player for CSK this season was new ball bowler Deepak Chahar. Chahar wasn’t in color in the previous UAE edition. In 14 games last year, he managed to take only 12 wickets. This season, however, he was a real match winner for CSK and rocked the opposing batting teams with his swing bowling. So far he has 8 wickets in 4 games. What is really interesting is that he already has two four wicket turns, which also means he’s been without a wicket in two games, but that can’t detract from the overall effect he’s had. His best numbers this season are 4/13 and he has a savings rate of 7.33. He is CSK’s highest wicket taker to date in the IPL 2021 and, together with Delhi’s Avesh Khan, is second in the overall list, behind only Harshal Patel from RCB, who has 9 wickets so far and holds the purple cap.
The Englishman Moeen Ali has also significantly expanded the CSK line-up. The 33-year-old all-rounder has so far taken 4 wickets in 4 games and only given away 57 runs with a savings rate of less than 7. His best bowling numbers so far are an unbelievable 3/7 and he is so far CSK’s second most successful bowler in IPL 2021. With the bat, CSK Moeen has taken the lead and has so far achieved 133 runs in 4 innings, with an average of over 33 and a hit rate of 153.
Another good news for CSK is that young Ruturaj Gaikwad appears to be in good shape. His knock of 64 against KKR on Wednesday was his first fiftieth of the season and that will give him a lot of confidence.
Although they managed to score a few trot wins towards the end of the tournament, the men in yellow finished seventh out of eight teams last season.
This time CSK is at the top of the table of points after the first four games with 6 points and an extremely healthy NRR of +1.142.
It is always a meaningful statistic if a team is in first place in the points table after the first 4-5 games. It shows that they have momentum, that they managed to win the big moments in games and that they are performing as a group. This was missing from CSK in IPL 2020.
There are of course still areas in which MS Dhoni, Stephen Fleming and the team leader 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 achieve this.
08/01IPL 2021: Chennai Super Kings def. Kolkata Knight Riders by 18 runs
In their next game on April 25th, they face high-flying RCB in Mumbai. There will also be a clash of Dhoni against Virat.
The CSK revival is really in full swing. It will be very interesting to see what the next phase of league games has in store for Dhoni and his boys.
IPL 2021, Match 15: Chennai Super Kings vs Kolkata Knight Riders
Chennai Super Kings overcame Pat Cummins’ onslaught with the bat to claim an 18-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday. (PTI photo for IPL)