Super Kings squander their batting depth
Chennai Super Kings' go-slow approach often works, and is often criticised as well for being under-utilisation of a batting order that goes on and on. What is the need for Michael Hussey and Co to preserve wickets and build when you have men like Albie Morkel and Chris Morris coming in as late as Nos 8 and 9? It is Twenty20, goes the argument. There are as many as ten wickets to use, or lose, over just 20 overs. Invitation to start swinging from ball one, and never let up. There is always one hitter more to come in if you fail. No way is there enough time for such a powerful line-up to run out of batsmen, right? Wrong.
Super Kings' collective suicide in the IPL 2013 final showed that go-slow and explode is far more preferable to unrestrained bang-bang. More importantly, it also showed that even in T20, no matter how deep a side bats or how many six-hitters it has, its batsmen are far better off putting at least some price on their wickets. Or else, they risk reducing one of the greatest limited-overs batsmen ever to farming the strike with plenty of overs left and hitting defiant, but meaningless, late sixes.
MS Dhoni is often blamed for batting too low. For a man whose reputation forces even Lasith Malinga to bowl a wide outside off with an asking-rate over 27, No. 7 was definitely not the position to bat in a tournament final chase. And forget the situation and the occasion, there is no way Dhoni can bat lower than Ravindra Jadeja. But tonight, would it have mattered if Dhoni had come in at No 6 or No 5? Defensive as it was to hold himself for so late, can Dhoni be blamed for the sheer senselessness of what was happening at the other end? Dhoni couldn't have batted at both ends.
The Mumbai Indians bowlers deserved praise for making 148 look like 198, but apart from the inswinging Malinga yorker that took care of Hussey, they didn't really have to take the other wickets, rather than receiving them on a platter.
Suresh Raina has hopes of adding to his 17 Tests. His response to the first ball he faced suggests they are likely to remain just hopes for some time. Now the world and the adjoining galaxy know that Raina expects the bouncer when he comes in. It is one thing when the bowler preys on your expectations, places a short leg or deep square leg and you get out to the bluff full delivery. But it is seriously poor for someone who has been playing international cricket for eight years to meekly fend a bouncer first ball into the hands of short leg.
S Badrinath, Dwayne Bravo, Jadeja, M Vijay. All of them threw it away. Badrinath was sent in to enforce go-slow again but chased a wide delivery. Bravo's was a strange innings. He looked to be trying to desperately counter-attack every ball and still went at less than a run a ball before falling to his own desperation. Jadeja's heave second ball at 36 for 4 mocked Dhoni's decision to send the allrounder above himself. Vijay tried patience for some time, but was caught between continuing with it and playing the cool saviour. Forget 120 deliveries, it took a little over one-third of that, 45 balls, for Super Kings to squander their depth, the depth that was supposedly inexhaustible over a mere 20 overs.
Contrast this with the way Kieron Pollard and Ambati Rayudu batted. Mumbai Indians were 52 for 4 and down to their last proper batting pair with a long tail to follow. Pollard did begin with a boundary, but it was a risk-free push down and along the ground. He defended successive carrom balls from R Ashwin. The third one was a carrom ball again, but it was fuller and slightly angled in. Pollard launched it over long-on.
He got little strike at the death and that made him livid but he confined himself to shouting and swearing and didn't let his game be affected. After being left agonising at the other end for 15 of the previous 22 deliveries, he cracked the final two balls of the innings for sixes.
It is Mumbai Indians who are usually said to get muddled with too many resources to choose from but probably the absence of any more depth in the batting gave Pollard and Rayudu no choice but to play sensibly. To their credit, they did. Probably the availability of depth in the batting made Super Kings abandon their successful policy of preserving wickets for once. To their detriment, they chose the final to showcase that wickets have value, even in T20.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo