The Super King Show
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Mahendra Singh Dhoni's heart must have sunk just that little bit when he saw another greenish track greet him ahead of Wednesday's eliminator against Mumbai Indians. In just their previous game, Chennai Super Kings were routed on a fresh track at the Dharamsala by Kings XI Punjab.
A lot of Chennai's success in the past was down to having a combination fine-tuned for success on sluggish wickets. With this edition being played on more than the usual number of spicy tracks (a solitary spinner figures among the top nine wicket-takers for IPL 5), Chennai have struggled. So ahead of the eliminator, Dhoni was faced with the fundamental choice of reconfiguring his side keeping in mind the altered conditions, or trust what has worked for him so far, even if the choices appeared counter-intuitive.
Dhoni did make two changes from the side that lost the last league game. S Anirudha, a handy slogger who had turned games around for Chennai in the past, was replaced by the more stoic S Badrinath. More puzzling was the decision to replace the pace bowling option (Yo Mahesh had played against Punjab) with the second spinner, S Jakati. Mumbai, on the other hand, would have three outright pacers and two back-up medium pacers to call on, on a track that promised assistance.
Having made the changes, it is impossible to know whether Dhoni was still confident of the side that he had put up, when the first two balls sent down by a pacer — Dhawal Kulkarni — in the match resulted in two wickets. Kulkarni sent back M Vijay with a swaying outswinger and off the very next ball, had S Raina playing on. Chennai's scorecard read four for two at the end of three overs.
From that point on, what played out until the end — Chennai's 38 run win — was just a demonstration of the validity of Dhoni's calls. When confronted with a poor start, the Dhoni template calls for a certain concession of initiative — preserve wickets and leave the big hits for the end.
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