Tonight CSK and MI faced off at the cauldron of Sharjah. A look back at the journey of these 2 teams in this IPL is an ideal example of the uncertainties that the game of cricket carries with itself. Dhoni and Rohit faced off in the tournament-opening clash a few weeks back. In that match, CSK mauled MI courtesy of some disciplined bowling and excellent batting from Rayudu and Du Plessis. Since that clash, CSK’s stocks have gone down and down and MI’s rise to the top has been on an exponential curve. An ideal example that demonstrates the proverb “Morning shows the day” to be futile in the game of cricket.

 MI won the toss and chose to field on a batting-friendly pitch. Rohit Sharma pulled a muscle during that historic super over against Punjab and hence, he was rested. With MI’s position in the league and the amount of talent available at their disposal, they could afford to rest their premier batsman for the business end of the tournament. Kieron Pollard, the CPL winning TKR captain, came out for the toss in his absence.

Before I get into analyzing the match, let us start with a comment of MSD that drew so much flak on social media in the last few days. Dhoni stated in the post-match presentation that CSK’s youngsters lacked spark and hence, did not get their opportunity in the playing 11. I am not sure how much motivation remains in the youngsters after such a public statement by their senior captain. In fact, this is the first time, I am finding a captain categorizing the youngsters of the team as an inferior group. Great captains historically have always backed the young guns, be it Mark Taylor or Imran Khan or Ajit Wadekar or, Sourav Ganguly. Such a statement from an experienced captain like MSD was completely uncalled for.

I don’t know whether Ruturaj Gaikwad has ever opened the inning in any form of domestic cricket. Throwing him to open the batting against the likes of Bumrah and Boult is a cardinal sin from the CSK management. Boult swung the ball at will and Ruturaj looked at sea against the moving ball. Boult accounted for Du Plessis and Ruturaj and came back later in the powerplay to account for Jagdeesan. I must say, CSK was pretty bad at handling the youngsters today. With the ball moving around on a fresh Sharjah pitch, batsmen of the quality of Curran and Jadeja, who are playing international cricket regularly were made to wait in the dugout. Jagdeesan and Ruturaj were sent out to counter the likes of Bumrah and Boult-Absolutely inexplicable from CSK.

At the end of the 3rd over CSK were reduced to 3 for 4. The CSK fortress that was gradually coming down brick by brick this season was swept off by a stick of massive MI dynamite in this match. At the end of the 7th over, CSK were 30-6, almost on the verge of knocking down RCB’s 49 all-out record. Boult had dream figures of 4-1-3-3 and Bumrah picked up the in-form Rayudu.

That is when Sam Curran came in with a rescue act- something that saved CSK the blushes of recording the lowest score in the tournament. Curran scored an excellent half-century, which took the CSK score to above 100. Rahul Chahar and Coulter Nile accounted for the remaining wickets to wrap up the inning with ease.

If MSD had any plans of causing jitters in the MI lineup in the absence of Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan ensured that such a thing did not happen. He looked in the groove for the first time after he scored that decisive 99 against RCB.  The fact, that CSK did not have express pace bowling added to Kishan’s comfort, and the wicketkeeper swept and pulled and drove with glee to make light work of the target.

QDK showed how he has improved his game with experience. On other days, he would play the role of an aggressor letting Rohit settle into his batting. However, with Ishan timing the ball today De Kock set about rotating the strike and playing the anchor role. SA’s captaincy has brought in a lot of maturity in De Kock’s game.

Kishan scored 68 from 37 deliveries ably supported by QDK, who scored 46 to take MI home by 10 wickets. For MI, a place in the top 2 looks a certainty. Whereas for CSK, the wooden spoon seems to be their destiny.