Chennai finish their 2020 edition of the Indian T20 League with 12 points, on par with Punjab, Rajasthan and possibly even Hyderabad if they lose their last game against Mumbai. Yet, somehow, each of the other teams except Chennai were hailed at one point or the other for their season.
Chennai had no such luxury with their tactics, squad, playing style and their approach was constantly questioned through the season. Sure Chennai were bad, but how worse were they in comparison to some of the other teams that just missed qualification or might qualify by a whisker? Massive? #DefinitelyNot, if you know what we mean.
Why was Chennai's season not that bad?
Well, there are several reasons to believe that Chennai actually had a decent season for the kind of team they had.
It's worth remembering that Chennai, like the other teams, were due to play this season back at home in India. But there's a reason the shifting of the league from India to UAE has affected Chennai more than others. The franchise has often banked on home advantage and the fortress they have created at Chepauk to ensure they strangle teams.
With no Chepauk, Chennai's plans got a significant hit. Their usual modus operandi of winning close to half the league games at home and then sneaking in two or three wins to qualify did not quite work out here with no clear advantage to work with. That they still finished nearly one win away from qualifying is noteworthy because their whole team is built to play to this setup.
Absence of stars
Sure, Chennai could have replaced them and it's a blunder that they didn't. That said, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh were still absent and for the early half the superstar of their last three games - Ruturaj Gaikwad - was out with Covid.
Raina and Harbhajan are core members in the Chennai setup and replacing them in the starting XI is quite a task for them in particular as they often seek stability in their playing group and barely chop and change much.
In comparison to some of the settled line-ups that still finished on par with them, Chennai rather outperformed themselves. With the kind of team they had, they had no business finishing on 12 points.
The qualification scenario
Arguably, Chennai were a win, maybe two away from ensuring qualification. Even assuming they didn't qualify, they would have been tussling it out for a playoff spot in this final few days if they had sneaked in one more win. With three teams in all likely finishing on the same points as them, it is difficult to pinpoint Chennai as the worst team.
Like with the others, Chennai had their moments too. They were terrible in several areas but that's true for most teams that miss qualification in a season. The kind of criticism Chennai have coped this season is perhaps unprecedented in the history of the league and it might be a tad unfair given that they will not even be finishing last on the points table.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Team Chennai