How might Chennai prepare for a better future?
"Whenever you aren't doing well, there can be a hundred reasons. One of the main things you ask yourself is whether you are playing to your potential. When you put out a playing eleven and judge whether they have done well to justify their stats on paper on the field, I feel this year we have not done that. Cumulatively, when three or four of your batsmen aren't doing well, it becomes difficult"
These were MS Dhoni's words after a thumping at the hands of Mumbai, and they reflect the kind of season three-time title winners Chennai have had. They need to regroup quickly if they are to salvage some sort of respect through the rest of the season.
How and where do Chennai begin? They made a whole lot of changes by their standards for the game against Mumbai but found themselves falling short by a whopping margin yet again. They are short of options in the squad too, given that they never replaced Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh. So, how do Chennai line up in the next game?
Without much ado, the change has to begin from the top. While Faf du Plessis has been good, Chennai have struggled in the middle overs and will want more strength there. The South African remains a viable option but can possibly be rotated out for a couple of games to give the other overseas guys a go.
Sam Curran needs to lend aggression at the top to ensure the opposition do not come in to bowl knowing that Chennai play one-dimensional cricket in the Powerplay overs. While Ruturaj Gaikwad had a terrible game against Mumbai, he can be given a long rope at the top.
Narayanan Jagadeesan, whose natural position is in the top-order, can bat at No. 3.
If Ambati Rayudu can drop anchor at No. 4, it will help Chennai avert some damage from the middle overs where they have been found wanting. MS Dhoni also adds to the middle-order and can try and bat at No. 5 consistently enough. He had specifically stated that he won't be "running away" given that he is the skipper.
The other question is surrounding Ravindra Jadeja. The left-arm spinner has been mighty effective with the bat, but his bowling numbers have tapered off. It might be worth sending him to the bench for a while to play Mitchell Santner who can be a valuable bowler in the middle overs where Chennai have conceded runs at the worst economy this season.
The change needs to come in Chennai's bowling department
Dhoni was mocked when he talked of Chennai needing more from their bowlers after a poor show early in the season by their batters. He wasn't way too much off the mark given how the Chennai squad is now.
With no reliable back up batters, the change could come on the bowling front indeed. Ravi Sai Kishore, a left-arm spinner capable of bowling in the Powerplay overs and the leading wicket-taker in last year's Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, needs to be given a go.
Imran Tahir complements him in the bowling department. Lending more tooth to the bowling will be Lungi Ngidi ahead of Josh Hazlewood. Despite the South African being tonked for runs by Jofra Archer in that game against Rajasthan, Ngidi remains a potent threat in this format as proven by his recent record for South Africa and needs to be stuck with.
While Shardul Thakur has been reasonable enough, they could also add KM Asif or Monu Kumar for some extra pace and zip in the Powerplay overs. There's never a better time to experiment and Chennai might just be able to identify which players they need to dispense with and whom to stick by after this mini-experiment so late in the season.
Possible XI: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sam Curran, Narayanan Jagadeesan, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Mitchell Santner, Deepak Chahar, Ravi Sai Kishore, KM Asif, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi
Feature image courtesy: Twitter.com / Chennai