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Match Analysis

Talking Points: Was MS Dhoni right about the lack of 'spark' in his team?

That aside, what makes Kieron Pollard such a successful captain?

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Another day, another failure with the bat for MS Dhoni, Chennai Super Kings vs Mumbai Indians, IPL 2020, Sharjah, October 23, 2020

Another day, another failure with the bat for MS Dhoni  •  BCCI

Here are the talking points from the IPL 2020 game between Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians in Sharjah
Was Dhoni right about the lack of 'spark'?
MS Dhoni was ridiculed by Kris Srikkanth - and many others on social media - after suggesting that the Chennai Super Kings' young players had not pressed their case for inclusion or shown the "spark" necessary this season.
On Friday night, he gave opportunities to two young domestic batsmen in Ruturaj Gaikwad and N Jagadeesan, who slotted in as opener and No. 4 respectively. But they only managed to prove Dhoni's point: Gaikwad was set up with three outswingers by Trent Boult before being trapped lbw by a booming inswinger, while Jagadeesan edged Jasprit Bumrah to slip first ball. Between them, they contributed 0 off 6 balls.
Why did Bumrah open the bowling?
Despite enjoying more success in the powerplay than at the death this season, Bumrah had only opened the bowling once before in this season's IPL - against the Rajasthan Royals, when he dismissed Steven Smith with the fourth ball he bowled. The Mumbai Indians have otherwise given James Pattinson the second over - Boult has always had the first - but with his replacement Nathan Coulter-Nile better suited to the middle overs, stand-in captain Kieron Pollard decided to give it to Bumrah.
In Pollard's only previous game as the Mumbai Indians captain - against the Kings XI Punjab in 2019 - he had also given Bumrah the second over, and watched him cause Chris Gayle and KL Rahul some problems with the new ball. Tonight, the move could hardly have worked better: he took two wickets in two balls to leave Chennai 3 for 3, bowling an immaculate line in the off-stump area.
Why did Curran drop down the order?
After three games at the top of the order as a pinch-hitter, Sam Curran was pushed back down the order to No. 7, where he made a valiant rearguard half-century after seemingly being asked to bat the overs out.
While it might have seemed like a harsh call to move him back down the order given his relative success at the top - 53 runs in three innings - he had struggled against high pace, against Jofra Archer in particular, in the Super Kings defeat to the Royals on Monday night. With Boult and Bumrah operating in the powerplay, there was plenty of logic in Dhoni's call to end the opening experiment.
Chahar vs Chahar
Double first cousins Rahul and Deepak Chahar have been playing against one another in the IPL since 2017, but have only rarely bowled to one another: that is perhaps no surprise, given they are both lower-order batsmen and neither bowls much at the death.
Before tonight, Deepak had bowled four balls to Rahul, dismissing him with one of them, but Rahul had never bowled to Deepak. He did so as early as in the seventh over tonight, starting with two dots, and then dismissed him with the fourth ball he bowled to him, with Quinton de Kock completing a straightforward stumping. Deepak is unlikely to bring this game up at the family dinner table.
Why did Kishan, rather than Suryakumar, open for Mumbai?
In the absence of the injured Rohit Sharma, Mumbai promoted Ishan Kishan to open the batting alongside de Kock. It was a move that worked brilliantly, as he hit 68 not out off 37 balls to propel them back to the top of the table, but it perhaps came as a surprise to see him walk out rather than Suryakumar Yadav - whom ESPNcricinfo's Live Report readers had voted as their choice to open during the interval.
Indeed, this was the first time that the Mumbai Indians had ever opened the batting with two left-handers. It was a move that they would have been unlikely to consider if the Super Kings had fielded an offspinner, given their emphasis on match-ups, but without one in their side, there was no need to worry about anyone taking the ball away from the bat.
Could Tahir have come on earlier?
After spending the whole season on the bench, this was not the ideal return to the side for last year's Purple Cap winner Imran Tahir - despite his useful contribution with the bat from No. 10. Perhaps, given his record against the Mumbai Indians openers, he might have come on earlier: he had dismissed Kishan five times out of five, all of them attacking shots, and had got de Kock twice in the 15 balls he had bowled to him.
But with the Super Kings fielding two new-ball specialists in Chahar and Josh Hazlewood, he found himself coming on in the sixth over, with the score already 47 for 0 and any lingering hope of a come-from-behind win extinguished. Similarly, it was surprising that Dhoni did not give Curran a single over, given his knack for picking up important wickets.
Does Pollard have the magic touch?
Pollard's second game as captain in the IPL resulted in his second victory, making him the only man with a 100% record as skipper to have captained more than one game in the competition. He has now won 15 games in a row as captain, after leading the Trinbago Knight Riders to the CPL title with 11 wins from 11 after three consecutive wins skippering West Indies at the start of the year.
The last team to have beaten a Pollard-led side was Ireland, back in January, when a remarkable partnership between Kevin O'Brien and Paul Stirling led them to a four-run win. It is hard to imagine there is a team worldwide with such a well-qualified vice-captain.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98