Chennai Super Kings IPL 2014 review May 31, 2014

Bowling confines CSK to below-par third

Chennai Super Kings finished in bronze position for their joint-worst showing in seven seasons. Once again, it was primarily their pacers who came up short

Where they finished

Third overall, having won the eliminator before losing the second qualifier. They had also finished the league stage in third place, with nine wins in 14 games.

What went right

For the seventh time in seven seasons, Chennai Super Kings made it to the last four. Unlike in a few previous seasons - 2010 and 2012 in particular - Super Kings never looked like they might not make the playoffs this year. After losing their first game despite posting 200+ against Kings XI Punjab, they won six in a row. That meant their place in the top four was not in danger despite a patchy showing towards the end of the league phase.

The driving force behind their success, yet again, was their powerhouse batting. Suresh Raina was at his dependable - and explosive - best, MS Dhoni delivered a couple of his signature last-over finishes, Faf du Plessis moved up and down the order as required without much fuss. Those were the old hands. The batting additions, as has often been the case with Super Kings' overseas signings, also fired. David Hussey slotted right in when he was signed up late in the season, averaging 58 in the four opportunities he got. But the biggest pluses came at the top of the order, in the shape of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum.

There was a question mark over this area at the start of the season, with Super Kings' long-term, successful opening stand of Michael Hussey and M Vijay having been disbanded at the auction. Smith and McCullum quickly dispelled any such worries. Prior to the final, they were the only pair to score more than 500 runs in partnership in the tournament, their quickfire 513 runs coming at 42.75.

Their fielding - and outfield catching in particular - was, once again, above par for the most part. The team will also be relieved that there were no off-field controversies directly disrupting its campaign this season.

What went wrong

For the first time in five years, Super Kings did not make it to the final. The run of three losses towards the end of the league phase ultimately cost them - it's always much harder for a team finishing third or fourth to take the title, needing to win three knockout games in a row.

That McCullum was out of sorts when shifted down the order will be something the team management would have noted. Another factor to mull on the batting front would be whether Dhoni batted too low down, too much of the time. But given the batsmen's overall showing, these are but little details.

The real devil for Super Kings, once again lay in the bowling. It said it all that the usually unruffled Dhoni quipped after his team exited, having conceded over 200 to Kings XI three times in three games: "I had belief in my bowling that they will definitely let them score 200 runs."

While fast bowling continued to be their weakest link, this season even the spinners could not stifle the opposition as much as Dhoni would have liked. Even R Ashwin's defensive, leg-stump line hardly helped. The biggest issue, though, was finding an able new-ball partner for Mohit Sharma, who held the purple cap when Super Kings were knocked out. Mohit, who had been bought back after showing promise last season, finished with 23 wickets at 19.65; he tested batsmen with movement early on, and was consistently entrusted with bowling the death bowlers - which accounts for his higher economy rate of 8.39. None of the others seamers could manage more than eight wickets, and the experienced Ben Hilfenhaus and Ashish Nehra were even more expensive, constantly erring in both line and length. Ishwar Pandey fell away once the tournament moved to the more batsmen-friendly Indian tracks.

Key stat

One. That's the number of matches Dwayne Bravo, who was last season's top wicket-taker and one of five players retained by Chennai Super Kings this year, played for the team before being sidelined by a shoulder injury. Had the big-hitting, pace-bowling allrounder - and his effective slower ones - been available, he would have lent the XI much better balance than it had all season.

Best player

It would not be an exaggeration to say Suresh Raina is the IPL's best batsman. He has scored over 400 runs in each of the seven seasons, and he has been fit enough to not miss a single game for Super Kings till now. This time he churned out 523 runs at 40.23, with five fifties, at a strike rate of 145.68. Most importantly, he saved his best for the knockouts. Against Mumbai Indians in the eliminator, with Super Kings chasing a manageable 174, Raina scored a smart, unbeaten 54 off 33, dotted with well-placed singles and twos to keep the asking rate in check. In the second qualifier, Raina went into overdrive from the outset and made the unmanageable look manageable. His 87 off 25 came with 12 fours and six sixes - most of them good-looking, proper cricket shots. Super Kings were a mind-boggling 100 after the Powerplay, and on course for the biggest chase in Twenty20 history. What more could his team ask for?

Poor performer

Ben Hilfenhaus was one of the key components of Super Kings' 2012 campaign. He took 14 wickets in nine games and conceded 6.85 to the over then. Perhaps that is why the franchise bought him at this year's auction for a sizeable Rs 1 crore (US$ 166,000 approx). The other specialist overseas quicks were the lower-profile John Hastings and the green Matt Henry. Add to that Bravo's early exit, the relative inexperience of Mohit and Pandey, and that Nehra has been past his prime for a while now, and you see Super Kings considered Hilfenhaus their primary pacer. Eight wickets at over 30 while conceding over 8.7 an over, though, are hardly the stats you'd expect of a spearhead.

Surprise package

Prior to the final, Dwayne Smith was second on the tournament's runs charts, with 566 runs. While it was no surprise that he was able to brutalise attacks every now and then, what was a surprise was the consistency with which he got Super Kings off to starts, even if he was not at his attacking best; his T20 international average is 19.37, his overall T20 average is 26.01. Here, he scored at 35.37 to the game.

Memorable moment

Suresh Raina was in the middle of arguably the best IPL innings across seasons. Super Kings were on track to pull off an incredible, record chase of 227, to make their sixth IPL final in seven editions. There was the buzz of expectation with Kings XI's legspinners and left-arm spinners set to come on, against the marauding, left-handed Raina. Then Brendon McCullum, facing his first ball, poked towards cover and after a bit of hesitancy, Raina decided to go through for the single. George Bailey, with a direct hit from square on, caught him short at the keeper's end. He was out for a stunning 87 off 25, his team-mates produced some ordinary cricket thereafter, and all too soon Super Kings' season was over.

Unused players

Pacers Matt Henry and Ronit More, and batsman B Aparajith.

Nikita Bastian is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sam on June 1, 2014, 18:51 GMT

    1. It was a huge mistake to push McCullum down the order. He was playing so well & formed a dangerous opening combination with Dwayne Smith. 2. Du Plessis was OK in the middle. 3. I would have picked Badree for David Hussey so that the bowling could have been strong. 4. Why on earth Dhoni bats so low down i.e at 6 ? He should bat at 4. Can't understand what is ''finisher'' in T20 ! I mean also look at De Villiers. They all are wasting their immense talent tagging themselves as finisher. Watson also to some extent (at 4).

  • Dummy4 on June 1, 2014, 14:06 GMT

    What costed CSK most was underutilizing Badree. He should have been used against Punjab in the second and third matches against them. They didn't have a strong pace bowling attack. They had to improve on what they have.

  • Harish on June 1, 2014, 13:34 GMT

    @ Baghels, Shankar played a game - seemed quite nervous & was dropped. Manhas' batting was OK, but he dropped a few sitters in the field and he had to be dropped. Baba is experiencing what Ashwin had to in 08 - 09. Ash was not picked until the last league game in 09. Hope we will see more of them next year. And even in RR & Knight Riders, players like Unmukt, Kuldeep, were not given due chances. So, it is all about grabbing your chances upfront.

  • Dummy4 on June 1, 2014, 11:36 GMT

    What about all-round performance ? is it Sakib Al Hasan ?

  • jayaesh on June 1, 2014, 8:05 GMT

    Young uncapped Indian batters would be shuddering at the thought of being picked up by CSK at auctions because they are never given a chance , just ask Baba Aparjith and Shankar and even th e old pro Manhas did get to play 10 odd matches but he hardly got a chance to bat because he was pushed as low as no.7 ,Manhas always bats in top 4 for his state side Delhi.CSK fans don't get me wrong well i appreciate consistent entertaining performances they have put in but team has a very galactico kind of feel to it same as MI and RCB , mantra for these teams is to stuff there starting xi with big name overseas and Indian stars especially batting.Many neutral Indian fans supported RR,Kings xi,KKR because they put young Indian players first.

  • vas on June 1, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    Dhoni said, by the way the pitch was playing in the early overs he new the bowlers will find it hard to stop them scoring 200+. No one has express pace to force Sehwag on the back foot and spinners also need to find ways to contain the batsmen on flat wickets. These were valid points.

    The way Raina's dream hitting took CSK to 100 after 6 overs, any captain would be disappointed by the way players got themselves run out, hence the out burst of irresponsibility of international players.

  • vas on June 1, 2014, 7:36 GMT

    Csk bowlers did not fare badly. Three bowlers are among the top ten wicket takers. Kxip is the next best with two bowlers in the top ten. Other teams have one player each.

    Mohit No 1, Jadeja No 4 and Ashwin No 8. Mohit's economy was 8.39, a bit high because he bowled a lot at death. Jadeja's was 8.15. but he had two 4 fors and his bowling won him few MOMs. Ashwin's economy was a very good 7.30, that translate into 146/20 overs which will win you most games.

    CSK's losses came from one man's blitz from the opposition. 2 Maxwell blitzes, then Warner then Uthappa's sublime batting. Only v RCB it was beaten by the collective team effort. Even in Q2 it was Sehwag. If players like Maxwell, Yusuf, Warner and Sehwag get going no one can stop them.

    Q2 loss was due to the unlikely scenario of all 4 overseas players failing in the same match. They collectively scored 18 runs. If one of them scored a 25+ the outcome might have been different. CSK had a good IPL7. All the best for IPL8

  • Dummy4 on June 1, 2014, 5:50 GMT

    I generally agree with few points in this article but definitely not with all points. One issue i have is about the below par bowling performance of CSK, it is wrong actually, they actually bowled really well but it is the extraordinary batting from KXI Punjb like maxwell, sehwag etc is the cause for doni's fall. doni should be lucky to have indian main bowlers in his team but the opponent batsmen played so well. doni's statements of of insulting his bowlers is condemnable because it was actually the outstanding performance of maxwell, sehwag etc helped in eliminating the csk. doni should be lucky that he has great bowlers who can restrict other teams to around 140 - to 150 runs and this is helping him to win many many matches, otherwise his team would not have reached these heights since the ipl began around 2008. anyway I am delighted to see csk is eliminated now, congratulations to KXI punjab & KKR to be above csk in points table.

  • Harish on June 1, 2014, 3:37 GMT

    One could expect all the three unused players to get a game next season or even in the champions league. Thus making Chennai the first team to use all its auctioned players within the first couple of seasons. Has this ever been done before ?

  • Dummy4 on June 1, 2014, 3:01 GMT

    well as a csk fan i am disappointed but i am happy with the way our indian bowlers performed..ashwin and jaddu though seemed clueless against big hitters....mohit and ishwar were great..ishwar has gone for runs but has bowled some brilliant bowlers with the new ball..csk need a good quality fast bowler..csk really missed bravo...and little disappointed with mccullum...apart from two or three innings were he got going other games he just scrapped through...du plessi didnt get fair chance who i think would have done better than mccullum...smith showed he is a new buy for csk in the playoffs...see the difference between raina and smith...raina had no fear or pressure while smtih couldnt even time a ball properly..csk weakness has been bowling and will continue to be that unless they buy a quality pacer...wish pakistan players were allowed..csk would really benefit from having one of their fast bowlers..

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