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Match Analysis

Do Chennai Super Kings need to ditch the Dhoni template?

We also try to answer why David Warner went against the trend and batted first

Nagraj Gollapudi
MS Dhoni was running on fumes by the end, Chennai Super Kings v Sunrisers Hyderabad, IPL 2020, Dubai, October 2, 2020

MS Dhoni was running on fumes by the end  •  BCCI

All the talking points from the clash between Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad in Dubai on Friday night
Do Super Kings need to tear off the Dhoni template?
In each of their losses so far this season, the Chennai Super Kings have played according to the MS Dhoni template: by taking the match to the brink. Is it time to turn the page on that template?
On Friday, the Super Kings' lower order comprised Ravindra Jadeja, Sam Curran and Dwayne Bravo. In the last three years in T20s, Jadeja, who scored his maiden T20 fifty on Friday, has had a strike rate of nearly 138, Bravo of 157, and Curran of 187. Yet these players have barely got enough time to express themselves with the bat.
The Super Kings have been hurting themselves with conservative starts, leaving too much for the lower order and Dhoni. Three successive defeats with three failed chases. The Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming earlier said those who adapt the best will do well this IPL. Can the Super Kings adapt to a new batting strategy?
Garg's first act was to incur the wrath of the calmest man in cricket, having been involved in a run-out with Kane Williamson.
At that point the predicted score according to ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster was 132 for Sunrisers. Eventually they ended up setting a target of 165 thanks to Garg, 19, who smashed his maiden IPL half-century off only 23 balls while stitching a match-winning partnership with 20-year-old Abhishek Sharma.
From Meerut, Garg faced Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the nets at 15. In 2018 he made his Ranji Trophy debut for Uttar Pradesh, and was among the top 15 run-makers that season with a tally of 814, averaging an impressive 67.83 with two centuries and four fifties. Earlier this year he led India to the final of the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa. At the IPL auction last year, Sunrisers bought him for INR 1.9 crore (approx. $267,000 at the time).
The standout characteristic about Garg's innings was his clean hitting combined with an understanding of the field. If Curran bowled outside off, Garg knew there was no one at deep point. When Bravo bowled a yorker, Garg lapped him over short fine leg. If that was not enough he also ran out out Faf du Plessis, Super Kings' best batsman this season.
Why did Sunrisers elect to bat?
David Warner is the only captain to elect to bat twice so far this tournament. The first time around, that decision backfired as Sunrisers lost to the Kolkata Knight Riders by seven wickets in Abu Dhabi. So why did Warner decide to bat again?
Primarily because before Friday's game, all the six matches in Dubai had been won by teams batting first. Yet, none of those teams had elected to bat, they were all put in by the opposition. Warner's decision against the Super Kings to bat first ended that sequence.
Secondly, Sunrisers' bowling remains their strength. Two examples justify that: in their last match, against the Delhi Capitals, Sunrisers posted a par total of 162 in Abu Dhabi after being asked to bat first and they defended it to win by 15 runs.
In their first match of the season, Sunrisers had restricted the Royals Challengers Bangalore to 163 but failed to chase it down with their inexperienced middle order. At the toss on Friday, Warner confirmed his belief in the decision to bat, saying: "We are a pretty good side that can put on a total and then defend it."
Why was death specialist Bravo bowling early?
Surprisingly on Friday, Dhoni asked Bravo to deliver the seventh over. Out of 825 T20 overs Bravo has bowled since 2015 (as per ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data), only 13 times has he bowled the seventh over. In the last two IPL editions, Bravo has predominantly bowled the death overs and majority of times overs 18 and 20. However, Bravo was playing his first match of this IPL on Friday, having arrived with an injured knee from the CPL. So Dhoni opted to ease Bravo back with the seventh and tenth overs.
Those two overs might have been delivered by Jadeja on another day. But with Warner's presence and Jadeja's woeful form this IPL, Dhoni decided to go with Bravo.
However, in the final count it did hurt the Super Kings' bowling strategy as Garg and Sharma resurrected Sunrises' innings in the death overs, even blunting Bravo, who bowled overs 15 and 19, in which he gave away 20 runs together.
Should Super Kings replace Watson with Tahir?
1, 14, 33 and 4. Shane Watson's IPL so far. In 2019 too, he kept failing, but he was eventually their best batsman in the final against the Mumbai Indians.
Watson is 39 and struggling once again. Since 2019, his average of 21.42 has been the second-lowest among those who have opened at least ten times in the IPL. With a batting line-up that isn't coming together, they might once again keep the faith in Watson. But is it worth replacing Watson with Imran Tahir, who finished with the most wickets last IPL, as the Super Kings line-up bats deep? In conditions where wristspinners are proving to be a key element, Tahir has a role to play. It might also put more responsibility on the Indian batsmen, who, barring Rayudu, have hardly scored for the Super Kings yet.
Why did Sunrisers bowl Khaleel in the 19th over of the chase?
When Bhuvneshwar Kumar limped off the field, the Super Kings needed 43 runs from 11. Warner had to decide who would finish the penultimate over. As he said after the match, Warner was left with "no option" but to bowl Khaleel Ahmed, whose first three overs went for 0 for 19. The idea was to "kill the chase" as Warner had only two realistic bowling options left for the final over: young spinners in Sharma and Abdul Samad. Although he hit Ahmed for a four and a six, 28 runs from the final over on a slowing pitch was a steep climb for a tiring Dhoni.
With inputs from ESPNcricinfo's stats team

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo