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Analysis

Tactics board: How to play Shami and Rashid, the threat of Sri Lankans in CSK

And what should the team wining the toss do? Here's where the match could be won or lost

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
23-May-2023
Gujarat Titans have come out trumps in each of the three games that they have played against Chennai Super Kings, but this will be the first time they will be playing at the Chepauk, and the two teams have also never met in a knockout game. CSK have enjoyed their home advantage, where spinners have enjoyed assistance, but Titans also have one of the most lethal spinners in the league, and another wristspinner to boot. Here's a look at where the Qualifier 1 of IPL 2023 in Chennai can be won and lost.

How to play Mohammed Shami?

In three matches for Titans against CSK, Mohammed Shami has bowled 12 overs for 68 runs and six wickets. In each of these matches, Shami has taken out one CSK opener in his second overs. Devon Conway has especially struggled against Shami's around-the-wicket angle. Shami to Conway in T20s: eight balls, three runs, out twice. Ruturaj Gaikwad has not got out to Shami, but he is well short of a run a ball against him.
CSK aren't a team to make a drastic move to change their openers but should they lose a wicket early, Ajinkya Rahane has had the better of Shami in the past. CSK will want to go after the opening bowlers at some point in order to force the spinners to bowl inside the powerplay. Just playing Shami out might have worked against Shami's older teams, but Titans have two wristspinners to follow on what has lately been a slow surface. There is no respite in sight.
All three matches that Titans have played against CSK have been on quick pitches with some early movement. Chepauk this year has been slow and bereft of seam. Therein lies CSK's opportunity.

The Rashid Khan threat

Whisper it, but Rashid Khan has had his most expensive IPL season at 7.82 an over, but it has come at a cost to the opposition: 24 wickets, level with Shami at the top of the wickets chart. Looking at the number of left-hand batters in their line-up, you'd think CSK have an opportunity there, but Rashid has got Moeen Ali out four times in 56 balls in all T20s, and Ravindra Jadeja has gone well under a run a ball against him.
If Titans have their way, Rashid will bowl three in the middle overs and one at the death. If their hand is forced, he might have to do 1-2-1. Either way, he will be a big factor in the middle overs, and his most prolific wicket-taking IPL season tells you, you can't target him.
That leaves Noor Ahmad and former CSK quick Mohit Sharma. The latter has almost exclusively been used in the back 10. Ahmad is not the most consistent. CSK will have no choice but to force the issue against them.

Will Josh Little play?

Unless he is not fit - and we haven't heard anything on that front - the one reason Josh Little has not been playing is possibly that Hardik Pandya has not been a 100% to bowl. For otherwise, Little and Abhinav Manohar/Sai Sudharsan is a better combination than Yash Dayal and Dasun Shanaka. It's possible Shanaka gives Hardik that option should one of the bowlers have a bad day. Hardik has gone three matches without bowling. It's possible he has been saving himself for the playoffs.

The two CSK Sri Lankans - Pathirana and Theekshana

Titans have played Matheesha Pathirana and Maheesh Theekshana once each, and never together. In the first match of this IPL, neither of the two played. Theekshana has figures of 4-0-24-2, and Pathirana 3.1-0-24-2 against Titans.
You can train only so much to face bowling of this kind, and they have faced precious little of it in actual match situation. Their eight overs could decide the match.

Do Titans unsettle Jadeja?

If there is some grip or slowness in the surface, Jadeja can be lethal in the middle overs. The one issue with Jadeja, though, has been bowling to left-hand batters. He has gone at 8.26 an over against left-hand batters as opposed to 6.24 against the right-hand ones. At times Dhoni has refrained from bowling him because of left-hand batters. Titans, though, have only two such batters: David Miller and Rahul Tewatia, unless they play Sudharsan. Tewatia is a last-overs specialist; do they promote Miller to upset CSK's middle-overs plans? Miller's record against Jadeja in the IPL might tempt them: 62 balls, 108 runs, one dismissal.

Win the toss and?

There is no better barometer of the Chennai pitch than what Dhoni does there. He has preferred to bat first because the square is slowing down, but on the one night that there was dew, Dhoni said there was no way they could have competed having decided to bat first against Kolkata Knight Riders. Just on Saturday, they had decided to bat first, scored 223 and won comfortably against Delhi Capitals. Of the five night matches in Chennai this IPL, three have been won by the side batting first and scores of 160 or more have been defended successfully on each occasion, but will a team be willing to take a chance with the dew?

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo