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Why Chennai’s poor form is not Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s fault

After losing five of their initial seven matches at the ongoing Indian T20 League, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has continuously been in the firing line for Chennai’s form. The skipper, who has previously led his side to three titles, ten playoffs and eight finals, has looked helpless so far, with many predicting it to be Dhoni’s end.

However, a closer look says that 2011 ICC World Cup winner has had little going his way in terms of the external factors. From players to pitches, MS Dhoni has had nothing to his liking in UAE and Chennai’s current poor form can hardly be attributed to him.

 

LAST MINUTE CHANGE IN Chennai CORE

After retiring from international cricket, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s sole focus should have been on regaining his form for IPL 2020, as he was returning from a hiatus that started after the 2019 ICC World Cup. Instead, the skipper was dealt with the blow of Suresh Raina leaving the camp at the eleventh hour. Over the years, Chennai’s squad had been built around Suresh Raina – the anchor who came after the powerplay and directed the play until the 15th over at a steady strike rate. Not only was losing Raina difficult but replacing him has also seemed impossible. An experienced Ambati Rayudu has been handed the role, but his injury concerns and inconsistent form make it extremely difficult for Chennai to follow their full-proof plan this season.

 

RIGHT SQUAD IN THE WRONG COUNTRY

BCCI’s call to move IPL 2020 from India to UAE was perfect in terms of the smooth running of affairs. Whether it be the bio bubble or the availability of numerous cricket venues, no other country could have offered a better prospect than the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, while the shift in the tournament was not a mighty issue for teams like Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata, it was the biggest differential for Chennai. Having acquainted with the slower pitch conditions in Chepauk, Chennai always built their squad that provided sure wins on the home pitch while MS Dhoni’s captaincy won them a few away matches, which were enough to get them a playoff spot. Hence, moving away from the slower pitches meant Chennai’s strengths like Dwayne Bravo, Imran Tahir and Shane Watson – all good players of spin – had to adapt quickly to the fast wickets. That hasn’t happened so far.

 

LOST IN TIME & TRANSLATION

No other team in the Indian T20 League have reached the final as many times as Chennai and a closer look reveals that there has been a clear pattern to it. Most Indian T20 League matches in India started at 7:30 pm in the evening, thereby making the chasing team the favourites to win most games owing to the dew factor coming by 10 pm, when the second innings started.

Chennai’s experienced Indian core had a way around it and their clever pick of overseas cricketers were also adept in backfoot strokes, making the yellow army a formidable opponent. MS Dhoni’s calculative mind also knew exactly when to accelerate the runs while batting first and Chennai crossed the line often. However, with the matches starting at 6 pm UAE time, the dew factor now takes time to come in and the faster pitches make spin bowling more of a liability than an asset. This has precisely been the reason why Tahir – who took a whopping 26 wickets last season for Chennai – hasn’t been given a first-team chance yet.

 

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