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Chennai Super Kings: Away from home, seeking comfort

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Just how much do Chennai Super Kings miss playing at the MA Chidambaram Stadium? Over two consecutive nights, teams successfully defended totals of 152 and 149 on slow, low Chepauk surfaces. The three-time champions devise their strategy around these sort of surfaces, building their team around spinners, who will win them matches at what they call their AnbuDen. 

Of all teams in the IPL, none maximise home advantage as much as Chennai. Season after season when they made play-offs, their plan circled around a simple formula: to get past the group stages, you need 16 points. That being the case, win at least five of the seven home matches and prevail in three away fixtures, the job is more or less do­ne. Even their auction strategy is built around this, which is why every year CSK stock their spin department. They se­ldom spend big on overseas pacers because they don’t need them.

Despite the IPL being played in India, franchises don’t have the home comfort this time. More than other franchises, it affects Chennai to a great extent, who have to compromise on their philosophy. Playing in high-scoring venues like Mumbai and Bengaluru, where they are scheduled to play five matches and three matches respectively, severely affects their plans. The four matches that they play at New Delhi could be to their liking, but playing majority of their matches at the Wankhede and Chinnaswamy, means the Super Kings need to adapt as quickly as possible. 

Since the Wankhede Stadium started hosting IPL matches in 2011, Chennai have played 13 matches at the venue, winning six and losing seven. And they are yet to win a match while batting first at the venue. 
Apart from being a high-scoring venue where sixes flow freely, the dew factor makes life difficult for the spinners. The 7.30 PM start means the team bowling first has an advantage of completing a majority of their overs before the dew sets in. After their defeat against Delhi Capitals, it was one of the aspects Super Kings’ captain MS Dhoni touched upon.

For a side that usually doesn’t total big scores, that they managed 188 after losing two early wickets against Delhi Capitals showed they were coming out of their comfort zone in Mumbai. But it is the bowling department that needs to crack the code. Chennai are desperately in search of bowlers who can provide them with wickets in the middle-overs. After walking away with Purple Cap in 2019, Imran Tahir is yet to take the field for the Super Kings. And Mitchell Santner, another capable spinner in T20s, hasn’t been able to make the break into the playing XI. 

Lungi Ngidi and Jason Behrendorff will provide them with some bite, but the duo will remain unavailable for the match against Punjab Kings on Friday. “It’s one of the quirks of this competition in this Covid age and we have just got to find a way. We need to do a little bit of work in trying to shut tea­ms down, but it’s going to be high-sc­oring affairs and the toss mi­ght play a big part. But don’t underestimate how much it ta­kes to change the philosophy of a team,” Chennai head coach Stephen Fleming said.

Kings Gambit
Two teams with very different ethos go head to head at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday. Here’s a look at the match between Punjab Kings and Chennai Super Kings

Today’s Match @ MUMBAI 7.30 PM, live on SS 1

Big-hitting Punjab eye run 
On pace and batting friendly Wankhede, Punjab seek second win in as many games. Their big-hitting batsmen, some of whom showed form in the first match, will look to keep going. Against a mix and match CSK outfit who don’t possess express pace, they could well get stuck in yet again. 

CSK’s tactics rejig
In the first match against Delhi Capitals, the batsmen showed more intent. They will have to show more of that as they are away from their comfort zone of spin-friendly Chepauk. One also wonders if they will opt for Imran Tahir for more control in the middle overs. 

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