The fault line is in the front for CSK

Three defeats in the first three matches is not an ideal start to a campaign in the Indian Premier League but the tournament history points to something else too. A team has won the IPL multiple trophies with even worse beginnings. So the problem for the Chennai Super Kings, admittedly, is not as much about the start to the campaign as much to their starts to each game. There seems to be an inherent fault line in their front line.

Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad have been the bulwark of their successful campaigns in the past – more so in 2021 – when the two would rip into the opposition up front, with ball and bat respectively. With one absent due to an injury and the other woefully out of form, the defending champions’ PowerPlay performances have been rendered feeble in the first three games.

Skipper Ravindra Jadeja admitted that the meek starts were not helping the team’s cause. “Yes, I think that is correct,” the new skipper said after another inept PowerPlay showing with the ball against Punjab Kings. “It is always important to get early wickets in power play. As a bowling unit, you want two-three wickets. We are definitely missing Deepak and his early breakthroughs.”

In 15 games last season, Chahar claimed 14 wickets and, more significantly, 10 of them had come in the first six overs of the game. The team is missing his the swing, pace and penetration in the early overs of the bowler, whom it had bought this year for INR 14 crore. He has been unavailable with a hamstring injury and it is uncertain when he would be back.

“Deepak is our main bowler and we are hoping he will be here as soon as possible. Because it is very important to take wickets with new balls. His return will make the bowling unit stronger,” the captain said. Chahar’s replacements, Tushar Deshpande and Mukesh Choudhary, have not quite made their marks so far. Against Punjab Kings on Sunday (April 3) night, Super Kings gave away 72 runs in the first six overs, despite claiming a couple of wickets early on.

While chasing 181, they were 14 for 2 with batting mainstay Gaikwad, who was one of the four retentions by the franchise, falling for 1, his third consecutive binary score of the season.

While agreeing that a forceful performance was important in batting PowerPlay, Jadeja, would rather not put the 25-year-old opener under pressure. “As far as Rutu is concerned, we don’t want to put pressure on him. We want to give him time to prepare enough. We want to back him, keep him in good frame of mind.” Gaikwad is coming off a wrist injury for which he had spent a lot of time at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru before the start of the IPL.

The team knows what the opener is capable of. The Pune batsman was the highest scorer of IPL 2021 with 635 runs at an average of over 45. “We need to give him confidence, we need to back him, we all know that he’s a very good player. We’ll definitely back him and I am sure that he will come good,” Jadeja said at the post-match presentation party.

The new Super Kings captain said the team was not panicking even after their third straight loss. He remains optimistic of an early turnaround.

“In T20 cricket, it is a matter of one match,” he said. “One win can change things. It will get us the momentum. We are in search of that win. We need not explain anything to them. They know their duties, we are working hard towards that. We are hoping out efforts will click.”

Updated: April 6, 2022 — 2:52 pm

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