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Match Analysis

The CSK remix ft. Simarjeet Singh

In IPL 2024, the Chennai Super Kings fast bowlers have taken 40 wickets at Chepauk. The spinners just five.

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
It was straight out of a scene from every romcom movie ever made. M Vijay and Suresh Raina's eyes met, except, instead of a crowded room, they had a wide open field between them. There was a little run. A big hug. A little jig. And big smiles. The old vibes were in full flow at Chepauk.
Out in the middle, there was a pitch that they would remember from way back when. Brown. Cracked. Dry. Short of blowing kisses to the spinners, it was doing everything it could to attract them.
A low-scorer was destined and a low-scorer it was, with the opposition struggling to make any headway on the run rate. But this was CSK remixed a little bit because their main wicket-taking threat came from a fast bowler. It's been like that all season.
Simarjeet Singh hasn't played any T20 cricket since IPL 2022. In fact, he's hadn't played anything outside of a couple of Ranji Trophy matches in 16 months. Then he arrived in Chennai for CSK's training camp in the first week of March and began to impress all the important people. "I don't know what he is doing but in the pre-season we had, he was bowling at around 150[kph]," Ruturaj Gaikwad said at the end of CSK's previous victory, over Punjab Kings in Dharamsala.
Sometimes, injuries can be good. They lead to treatment and training that helps the body get stronger. Simarjeet, this season, looks like he's bulked up. On Sunday, in the kind of heat that made some sections of the crowd give up the seats that they paid good money for and stand underneath any shade they could find, he kept running in hard and hitting the pitch harder. Ten of his first 12 deliveries were either short or short of a good length. Nine of them became dots, singles or wickets.
"It was a bit difficult," Simarjeet said about the heat when speaking to the host broadcaster. "But we knew about the conditions, we knew how difficult it would be. But we had to make an effort. Looking at the pitch, it seemed like it was gripping, stopping a bit, so I tried to bowl in my half of the pitch and not the half of the batsman."
Simarjeet's first wicket - Yashasvi Jaiswal, out caught when he lost control of a flat-batted shot that had previously earned him a four straight down the ground because of the extra bounce (that's why you bend that back, kids) - brought Rajasthan Royals' (RR's) projected score down from 183 to 171. It also brought two right-hand batters together, which meant Ravindra Jadeja could come on and hustle through his overs. Four on the trot with only one boundary. If RR had still had their left-hand batter out there, this period of play would not have been possible. Simarjeet was responsible for giving CSK that edge. And he did it again, and again, dismissing Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson. His 3 for 26 left RR at 94 for 3 at the end of 15 overs and 141 at the end of 20.
In 2023, CSK's home record was 4-3. This year, it's 5-2. In large parts, that's been because opposition teams have been able to come to Chepauk and put up big runs because the ball has been coming into the bat. CSK, who walk into every auction with a singular mind to build teams that can control games with spin, have had to figure out a different way to keep their home dominance. Batting depth and the freedom it offered. They trained people like Devon Conway and Ajinkya Rahane and Ambati Rayudu and Shivam Dube to put a very low price on their wicket so that the totals they got gave their bowlers a bigger margin of error.
This season, owing to some uncharacteristic use of the talent on offer - Ravindra Jadeja batting up the order, which increased his exposure to spin; Daryl Mitchell, batting down the order, which didn't give him any chance of getting his eye in - as well as Conway's injury and Rahane's poor form, CSK's firepower has never really found its way out into the real world.
The fact that they are still in the running for the playoffs is because their fast bowlers have spent the whole season bailing them out. The league stage is over and yet their spinners have taken only five wickets in 240 balls at home. The quicks have 40. Up is down. Left is right. Spin is sin. Seam for the win.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo