Overview of IPL Quaifier 1: CSK holding advantage experienced over DC

Former Chennai Super Kings guards, who have the odd knack of owning the big stage at the right time, will start as favorites against a solid Delhi Capitals roster led by ‘young suitor’ Rishabh Pant in what promises to be be an exciting first IPL qualifier here on Sunday.

The Capitals were the best team in the league and their score of 20 points in the group stage was an indication of their consistent performances which did not drop due to the forced break from COVID-19.

Likewise, CSK are now back in the familiar setting of the playoff rounds, which they have done 11 out of 12 times, although losing three games on the rebound would not have amused their almighty skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

DC, on the other hand, received a rude jerk from Kona Bharat’s last ball in their final group championship game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. It didn’t change their pole position but did enough to shake them out of their amazement.

CSK, over the years, has been to the final eight times and won three times, which speaks volumes about the team’s ability to improve their game just when it’s needed most.

This is the reason why CSK is not one of those franchises which unleash new talents by the dozen like other franchises. Ruturaj Gaikwad is an exception as it could qualify as a pure CSK product after more than a decade.

Dhoni has a simple cricket philosophy: to rely on proven, battle-hardened individuals.

These are players who have been there and who have done it. People capable of controlling phases and winning pressure situations which most often lead to victories.

Add Josh Hazlewood or Moeen Ali, who are also international regulars to this mix and the former Indian captain knows exactly what kind of combination he needs to put on the park.

As much as it is about team effort, no one knows more than Dhoni that maybe T20 is a form of cricket, where individuals win matches.

Dhoni knows that even though his hitting form (96 points in 14 games) abandoned him years ago (since 2015-16) and an IPL legend like Raina (160 in 12 games) does is a pale shadow of his once destructive self, he has Gaikwad (533 points) and Du Plessis (546) who have provided solid starts most of the time and the menacing Jadeja (227 points) who have offered their last breath.

Likewise, Shardul Thakur (18 wickets in 14 games) gave leads at an expensive 8.57 save rate, but the breakthroughs have always been big. No one knows more than Dwayne Bravo (12 wickets) how one can trick hitters by changing the pace of his deliveries to death.

Hazlewood hasn’t returned to form, but Dhoni has enormous patience with the players he believes in and he’s banking on the Australian’s devastating first spell that can wreak havoc.

This could happen against the Delhi Capitals, as their batter despite 10 wins didn’t really inspire confidence at the top. Prithvi Shaw (401 races) and Shikhar Dhawan (544 races) had their fair share of starts, but in the UAE stage they didn’t really dominate.

Skipper Pant (362 races) was rough at best and the absence of Marcus Stoinis due to injury affected their balance as they lack big hitters in the rescue of Shimron Hetmyer.

DC’s strength was its bowling attack – Avesh Khan (22 wickets), Axar Patel (15 wickets), Kagiso Rabada (13 wickets) and Anrich Nortje, who took nine wickets but a saving rate of 5.59 over six games.

DC’s bowling attack was fair on the money without being taken to the cleaners, but Pant is hoping the Law of Averages won’t catch up to them and Nortje and Rabada are able to destabilize Gaikwad with short balls, which was the weak point of the Maharashtra hitter.

But yes, even Dhoni would admit that Raina and Rayudu in what would be their last season for CSK, would want to make a tangible contribution with Willow.

Even the skipper himself needs to raise his hand as he has not been able to handle the brutal pace anymore.

Teams:

The Super Kings of Chennai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, KM Asif, Deepak Chahar, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, N Jagadeesan, Karn Sharma, Lungi Ngidi, Mitchell Santner, Ravindra Jadeja, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shardul Thakur, R Sai Kishore, Moeen Ali, K Gowtham, Cheteshwar Pujara, Harishankar Reddy, Bhagath Varma, C Hari Nishaanth.

DC: Rishabh Pant (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Prithvi Shaw, Ripal Patel, Shikhar Dhawan, Shimrom Hetmyar, Shreyas Iyer, Steve Smith, Amit Mishra, Anrich Nortje, Avesh Khan, Ben Dwarshuis, Ishant Sharma, Kagiso Rabada, Kulwant Lukman Khejroliya, Pravin Dubey, Tom Curran, Umesh Yadav, Axar Patel, Lalit Yadav, Marcus Stoinis, Ravichandran Ashwin, Sam Billings and Vishnu Vinod.