The IPL schedule leaves no time for thought. Teams have to rework strategies quickly as otherwise their approach will become so well known that opponents will be better prepared with counter-strategies. Chennai Super Kings were forced to rethink their tactics after three successive losses and they came up with a winning formula in New Delhi in a thriller.
It is pretty obvious that a flying start is a necessity in the format. But teams hitting from both ends have found themselves in a hole because they have lost too many wickets in too short a space.
S. Vidyut, who has shaped a fantastic limited-overs career for himself, was the fire starter while Fleming played the foil superbly against the Daredevils. Vidyut gave Chennai the confidence that the chase was on after Gautam Gambhir had given the Daredevils a better than average total.
Full credit to Dhoni for taking some hard decisions in what was a crunch match for Chennai by winning which they have returned to the top of the table. The skipper was not afraid to put people on the bench. The tactic of chasing also worked because you can expect a Kotla pitch to play the same way in the entire duration of a match.
Two or three hitters in the top five or six are sufficient.
If they are kept apart in the order, they seem to exert more pressure as Albie Morkel took over Vidyut's role when Dhoni himself was struggling to get the ball away. One great over of Morkel's hitting was enough to close the gap after which Dhoni played smart cricket by ensuring his side would have batsmen left to fight to the end.
Morkel's assault put so much pressure on Sehwag that he seemed to stop thinking and so messed up his end overs strategy.
He had to virtually toss a coin to decide whether he would bowl the last over or ask Shoaib Malik to handle it. Actually, neither of them should have been bowling that over which should have gone to a seamer.
Saturday's clash between the Chennai Super Kings and Punjab Kings XI becomes crucial for both teams. The winners can expect to get away from the bunch towards a semi-final slot. The key to Chennai's strategy would be to take on Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan without losing too many wickets in looking for a flying start. Not to charge at both bowlers would be the best way to go about it.
The key to Chennai staying at the top is the team does not push the panic button. This confidence seems to flow from the skipper who is never hassled. With the race for the semi-finals hotting up now after the halfway mark, the table leaders will know that their being at the top will put pressure on the others.
Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals and Punjab Kings XI have the early mover advantage.
Republished with permission from The Asian Age