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Champions CSK and Mumbai Indians are fighting for the wooden spoon


Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians are the two best teams in the history of the Indian Premier League. In the 14 seasons, these two sides have accounted for as many as nine IPL titles -- MI five times and CSK four - and have played four finals between them. However, this season in the ongoing 15th edition - the two teams are struggling to be competitive, plumbing the bottom.

Five time IPL Champions Mumbai Indians now hold the dubious distinction of being the first team to lose the first seven matches in IPL history. It has been a terrible season for Mumbai Indians as they have struggled with both bat and ball and have failed to win even a single match. MI surpassed the earlier joint record of Delhi Daredevils (Delhi Capitals) and Royal Challengers Bangalore who started off with six defeats each in 2013 and 2019 respectively.

Mumbai Indians started their campaign with 4 wicket loss to Delhi Capitals. In their second match, there were beaten by Rajasthan Royals by 23 runs. In the third and fourth matches, MI lost to Kolkata Knight Riders (by 5 wickets) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (by 7 wickets). In the next two matches, the five-time champions face Punjab Kings and newly formed Lucknow Super Giants and they went on to lose the match by 12 runs and 18 runs respectively. The five-time champions will be looking to avoid finishing at the bottom of the IPL 2022 points table at the end of the league stage.

Apart from Rohit’s struggle MI's strike bowler Jasprit Bumrah also hasn't been able to reproduce his best form with the ball in the earlier stages of the tournament. The other MI pace bowlers -- Basil Thampi, Daniel Sams and Tymal Mills - have been at best average and gone for plenty of runs. MI's auction strategy was strange. They splurged a massive Rs 8 crore on the injured Jofra Archer, who was unavailable for this season, but failed to pick a good spinner even though the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin were at the auction. MI's lone specialist spinner this season so far is leggie Murugan Ashwin, who never looked like winning matches on his own.

Suryakumar Yadav was a big miss for MI in the first two games. He smashed two half-centuries after being cleared to return following a finger injury, but the poor form of the other batters has seen MI finish with below par totals in both those games to finish on the losing side. Ishan Kishan is another major concern showing total lack of technique in the opening spot. Bowlers have worked out his weaknesses and is under great pressure given the money spent on him. Tilak Varma has provided some spark, but the lack of runs from senior pros Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard have hurt Mumbai big time. Another proof of MI's ill-fated auction strategy has been their team selection. In a desperate move against RCB, MI dropped the struggling pace duo of Sams and Mills, as they went in with just two overseas players in the playing XI. But even that gamble failed, and MI suffered a seven wicket thrashing. Tim David came in with a lot of reputation, failed in the first two games and has been dropped since and when it is too late, he scored runs.

CSK's main problem this season is the poor showing of their openers in the initial matches. Ruturaj Gaikwad struggled big time in the early stages, scoring just 18 runs from four matches. Veteran batter Robin Uthappa has not been consistent, with just one fifty in three games, while New Zealand's Devon Conway was dropped after the first game. Conway became good after the middle part of the tournament but again too late. However, CSK persisted with the struggling Gaikwad and brought Conway as his partner and they scored big runs after six losses eventually ending their qualifying chances.

All-rounder Shivam Dube has is the lone bright spot for CSK, having had a couple of good knocks in the middle order but lacked consistency. Moeen Ali has also done well, but there's nothing from the other CSK batsmen. Mahendra Singh Dhoni started the tournament with a cracking half-century against KKR, but after that has scored 42 runs from 40 balls in the next three games.

Dhoni's move to pass on the leadership role to Ravindra Jadeja two days before the start of IPL 2022 doesn't seem to have worked for CSK. Jadeja hasn't been able to produce match-winning performances to inspire his team. He has scored 66 runs from four matches and taken only one wicket conceding nearly eight runs per over. Jadeja could manage only one win in the first half of the league stage and CSK later admitted that the 33-year-old's individual performances were being affected as they announced that Dhoni would be back as captain for the rest of the season. The acceptance of the wrong move and Dhoni back to his captaincy was a brave move.

Deepak Chahar, the pace bowler's absence is a big blow for CSK. In his absence, the other Indian pacers have failed to live up to expectations. Mukesh Choudhary and Simarjeet Singh performed badly in the opening matches but persisting with them is paying dividends and will be a welcome addition in the next year tournament. Veteran all-rounder Dwayne Bravo is CSK's best performer with the ball, with six wickets in four games, but even he has gone at nearly 8.5 per over and injury is a concern for him.

Harbhajan Singh said that Chennai Super Kings have to start planning towards a future in which MS Dhoni will no longer be playing to captain the team. Former spinner Harbhajan Singh, who has played for CSK as well as their arch-rivals Mumbai Indians, said that stepping into MS Dhoni's shoes is not an easy task and it is something that CSK have to plan for. “When you have a captain like MS Dhoni it is very difficult to have someone come in and do what he has been doing. He has got all the trophies in his cabinet. To replace him is very difficult. I feel he is still the best captain among those playing,” Harbhajan told reporters on the sidelines of a Dream Set Go event. They tried Ravindra Jadeja, it didn't work out, and they went back to MS which is a great thing. Now they will have to see how CSK will perform beyond MS Dhoni, they are big shoes to fill. Let's see who can actually do the job that MS Dhoni has been doing over the years. Credit to him, taking all the burdens and responsibilities. It is very difficult to run a team and with CSK, he runs the teams, he calls the shots. Let us see if the next captain is as strong minded as him,” he said.


Sports News By

Srinivasan


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