Match Analysis

A new captain takes charge

Five takeaways from the Chennai Super Kings win over Rajasthan Royals, where the Royals installed Steven Smith as their new captain.

Shane Watson hits down the ground, Chennai Super Kings v Rajasthan Royals, IPL 2015, Chennai, May 10, 2015

Shane Watson has handed the Rajasthan Royals' captaincy to Steven Smith  •  BCCI

Enter captain Steven Smith
As Steven Smith walked out with MS Dhoni, the question that was begging to be asked at the toss interview, but ultimately wasn't, was if his presence was a consequence of another injury to Shane Watson. Or, was Watson dropped in one of Rajasthan Royals' experiments? Smith had after all filled in for Watson in Royals' first four games with the latter nursing a bruised hip. Smith made no mention of Watson either being unfit or dropped, and it was eventually discovered that his name was on the team sheet.
It wasn't until after the match that the reasons for the change in captaincy were known. "Shane has decided to hand the captaincy to me so that he can concentrate on his skills," Smith said at the presentation ceremony. "That's how it's going to be for the rest of the season."
Rahul Dravid, the team mentor, said it was becoming "pretty hectic" for Watson to juggle captaincy with his other responsibilities. "Watson has been doing such important roles for us: he has also been opening the bowling for us and batting. [This] will just allow him to free his mind, and allow Smith, who is I think a terrific captain, the chance to lead."
Master of the shuffle
In his first evening as full-time captain of Royals, Smith was a whirr of energy, constantly directing traffic; he was looking to make things happen, even if he wasn't always decisive. For instance, when Raina came out to bat, he put in place a short-leg, and had it removed in the space of a ball or two. Smith didn't fancy wasting much time celebrating a wicket, and like a geeky student ingesting bits of information minutes before an exam, used the extra seconds before the new batsman's arrival to get his field down pat.
Smith engaged as many as six bowlers in the first eight overs, and rotated his bowlers around through the innings. There weren't many occasions when a bowler sent down two overs in succession. Smith also made no attempt to mask his expressive self: when Sanju Samson put in a poor attempt and conceded five wides, he promptly affected the double-teapot.
Jadeja has a ball
Ravindra Jadeja hadn't taken a wicket on the four occasions he had bowled after his three-for against Kings XI Punjab. There were also question marks about his flagging utility with the bat, and as a result his role in the team as an allrounder. Coach Stephen Fleming, while saying the team wanted more from Jadeja, said Super Kings valued "what he can contribute". "We want a little bit more with the ball and want to get his hitting power back," Fleming had said in the pre-match press conference.
While his biffs weren't required in the previous game or this one - thanks to Pawan Negi taking over the late-order hitting duties - Jadeja used his accurate darts to good effect on a sluggish wicket. He picked up Smith's wicket off his fourth ball, and proceeded to take a wicket in each of his next three overs. Jadeja's final analysis read 4-0-11-4, and he duly walked away with the man-of-the-match award.
Driving Dhoni crazy
Now that's a phrase high up on the list of not-so-common occurrences on the cricket field. But Dwayne Smith and a few of his mates were guilty of fielding lapses that annoyed their captain. Everybody knows Dhoni's aversion towards conceding an easy single or two. Whenever one of his fielders failed to attack the ball, Dhoni would bang his gloved-fists in disapproval.
In the sixth over, Watson creamed one towards covers. Smith dived to his right to take some pace off the ball, but he hadn't gathered it cleanly. The batsmen subsequently stole a double even as the fielder from the deep rushed in to clean up. Dhoni shook his arm in Smith's direction, suggesting he should have recovered and chased down the ball. Smith shrugged as if to protest. Dhoni didn't react.
Smith didn't have much by way of defence the next time around. On this occasion, James Faulkner hammered one through the off side and Smith, at sweeper cover, was too slow to get down, as the ball rolled over the fence. Dhoni merely looked away. He continued to remain straight-faced as Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Bravo dropped straightforward chances.
The tipping point came in the last over when Chris Morris heaved one towards Jadeja at deep mid-wicket and pinched two. Dhoni collected the throw and flicked it away in irritation.
Bravo soars, and soars
Bravo has been Dhoni's go-to man in the middle overs. Despite going for a few runs, he picked up the wickets of Samson and Ankit Sharma. He had also clubbed a few blows with the bat towards the end.
But as has been the norm this season, his most telling contribution would come in the field. His contract probably makes one spectacular catch per game compulsory. On Sunday, he had two.
At the halfway stage, Watson lofted the ball towards long-on. While the ball looked headed beyond the ropes, Bravo raised himself and completed a one-handed take before racing away to show his moves to an adoring crowd.
In the 19th over, as Faulkner was looking to accelerate, Bravo once again jumped up, this time at cover, and came down with the ball. His recently released single, Chalo Chalo, played in the background. Take two of his jig.

Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo