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Lost that lovin' feelin'

Why Chennai Super Kings are down and Deccan Chargers up

Herschelle Gibbs walks off after winning Deccan the match, Chennai Super Kings v Deccan Chargers, IPL, 16th match, Durban, April 27, 2009
All their chakras plugged into the same circuit © AFP

The street where I live in Madras is hijacked everyday between 4 and 6pm by a group of 10-year-old boys. Even though there's a playground around the corner where they could safely sink their stumps, they prefer to use the road for their cricket ground, where the danger of a car lurching towards them adds just that extra level of excitement. Yesterday, though, they were conspicuous by their absence. Not a single one was around to roll his eyes in irritation at me as I went by for my daily walk. I'm guessing they were all inside, glued to the box.

Sadly for them, and for the rest of this city's avid cricket fans, the Super Kings fell short. I'm still not sure how. They got off to a marvellous start with Matthew Hayden's blistering 49, and there were good supporting performances by Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni and Jacob Oram, which steered them to a solid 165. And they followed it up with some pretty decent bowling by Muttiah Muralitharan, Raina and L Balaji, but it wasn't enough. The Deccan Chargers were just better. As a team, they were more fluid, more cohesive.

I'm going to come back to the idea of the genius spirit that I was talking about a few days ago. At the time, I was restricting my theory to an individual. The idea that after all those hours of practice in the nets, all those squats and lunges and mental focusing, when the time came to stride out into the arena and be a gladiator, you could do it. You could somehow draw out the best that your body possibly had to offer. But cricket is a team sport, and in order for a team to win, it requires a certain synergy between the individual members of that team. It won't work merely if a few, or even all, of their players are at the top of their game. Because the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. And for something magical to happen, those parts need to start communicating.

On paper, the Chennai Super Kings are one of the strongest teams: Hayden is the highest run-getter in the tournament, Murali is the highest-wicket taker in the world, and Dhoni is one of the most efficient captains. So what's the problem?

The problem is that they don't got that lovin feeling. If you slide your eyes over to the Deccan Chargers camp you can see it in the body language, in the bubbling excitement, in the "last year we were losers but this year we're going to win" look in their eyes. Once they start riding that wave, they're not going to stop, and sadly for the Chennai Super Kings, after every match, they're looking more and more like a group of dejected wallflowers, and no matter how bright their yellow uniforms shine or how hard Sivamani bangs on those drums, it's going to take some real alteration of spirit for something internal to click. Everyone on that team needs to have their chakras lined up and plugged into the same circuit.

Don't know how? Take a cue from Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya who hit 120 runs off 77 balls in a performance that was not just sublime but transcendental.

Tishani Doshi is a writer and dancer based in Chennai

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