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Indian T20 League: Are Chennai prepared to tackle Mumbai's SKY factor?

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Chennai lost all of their four matches against Mumbai in the last Indian T20 League season and one of the main factors that worked against them in two out of those four matches was their inability to stop Suryakumar Yadav -- one of the most dependable batsmen for Mumbai.

Suryakumar, who is fondly known as SKY, has amassed 400+ runs in each of the previous two Indian T20 League seasons for MI. He scored 512 runs in 2018 and followed that up with another good outing of 424 runs last year. In fact, 145 of his total tally of 424 runs in Indian T20 League 2019 came against Chennai and that too, at an excellent average of 72.50.

The right-handed batsman played an attacking knock of 59 off just 43 deliveries in their first encounter with Chennai last year at Mumbai and followed that up with yet another match-winning innings of 71* off just 54 deliveries in the first Qualifier at Chepauk.

The Chennai bowlers looked absolutely clueless while bowling to SKY in each of those innings. Whether it was a spinner or a pacer, the Mumbai batsman dealt all of them with equal disdain. Both of his knocks came when the MI openers had failed to contribute much value to the scorecard. He might have fallen to Imran Tahir's deceiving googly in the Indian T20 League final last year for a cheap score of 15, but that was majorly due to a lapse in concentration. Otherwise, he looked set for a good knock in that game as well.

Overall, the 29-year-old has a total of 277 runs to his name against Chennai at a good average of 30.78 and unless Dhoni and Co. find a way to deal with him, he is going to cause trouble this time as well.

The problem with Chennai last year was that they didn't have the right ammunition to counter SKY's threat.

Bowling Type Runs Balls Outs SR Dot percentage
Fast 87 60 6 145 45
Medium 456 332 12 137.3 40.4
Legbreak 144 112 7 128.6 28.6
Offbreak 162 125 1 129.6 29.6
Chinaman 21 12 0 175 33.3
Left-arm Orthodox 66 67 0 98.5 40.3

Table: Suryakumar Yadav vs different bowling types since Indian T20 League 2018

As evident in the table above, fast bowlers and leg-spinners have dismissed SKY more frequently as compared to other bowlers in the last two seasons of Indian T20 League. While he has lost his wicket every 10 deliveries to fast bowlers during this period, leg-spinners have accounted for his dismissal every 16 deliveries.

Apart from them, SKY is pretty much comfortable against all other bowling types. Yes, his strike-rate is pretty low against left-arm orthodox spin but he has never lost his wicket to them. So fast pace and leg-spin seem to be the only effective wicket-taking options in SKY's case.

Chennai, however, didn't go with any pacer who could be termed as 'fast' in any of the games against Mumbai last year. Lungi Ngidi is one bowler who can be considered in that category but he was ruled out due to injury last season. Mark Wood was there but Chennai didn't use his services in any of their clashes against Mumbai.

As far as leg-spinners are concerned, Chennai went in with only one of them -- Imran Tahir -- in all of those games. SKY negated Tahir's threat comfortably in his first two innings before faltering in the finals.

This year, though, Chennai can actually mend their mistake. Ngidi is absolutely fit and he should start in their tournament opener against Mumbai. To increase the leg-spin threat for SKY, Chennai should even go with Piyush Chawla, whose services they bought in the auctions last year along with Tahir. That way, they can easily increase the pressure on SKY.

The Super Kings definitely have the resources this year but the decision to use those is up to them. They should be mindful of the fact that the last time the Indian T20 League made this voyage to the UAE back in 2014, SKY had amassed 110 runs in just five innings at a sensational average and strike-rate of 55.00 and 177.42 respectively. So Chennai might end up paying a hefty price if they make any sort of error in picking the right resources to counter SKY in the all-important season opener on September 19.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Punit Paranjpe

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