Chennai Super Kings have finished half of their league games in IPL 2020, but with only two wins in seven matches, the gap between them and the top half of the points table is widening. Captain MS Dhoni likened the problems his team has been having to that of a sinking ship, springing too many leaks to plug at the same time. Dhoni said it was the batting, though, that needed to step up more than the bowling.
"Batting has been a bit of a worry, and I think today also it was very evident," Dhoni told host broadcaster Star after losing to the Royal Challengers Bangalore by 37 runs on Saturday. "I feel we need to do something about it because you can't just keep turning up and it's almost the same thing happening... maybe the individuals are different.
"I feel our batting has lacked a bit of, you can say power... more from the sixth over onwards. At times individuals can get a bit tentative. No matter how much confidence you are giving them, ultimately they need to go out and have their own plan. What is the shot they like to play against specific bowlers they would be facing? I guess that's where we have not maybe adapted ourselves or we have not come up with plans as to how we will really look to go after the bowlers who will be bowling from the sixth to maybe the 14th over."
Dhoni's point on the batting in the middle overs being an area of particular concern is borne out by the numbers. The Super Kings' run rate of 7.19 in that period - from overs 7 to 14 - is the second-worst in the league, with only the Royal Challengers' 6.56 being lower. However, the Royal Challengers have lifted their game in other areas, which has resulted in them winning four out of six games.
The Super Kings have had to plug leaks with their bowling as well as their batting overall.
"I feel our batting has lacked a bit of, you can say power. At times individuals can get a bit tentative. No matter how much confidence you are giving them, ultimately they need to go out and have their own plan." MS Dhoni
"I feel when it comes to our bowling we have shown that we can restrict the opposition," Dhoni said. "[But] either we are giving too many in the first six, or we are giving too many in the last four. It's just that there are too many holes in the ship, and you keep plugging one or the other and the water is flowing from the other side. We need to get our act together. Everything needs to work in the same game to get the desired result. I feel once we get a few results in our favour, it will be slightly different for us."
The batting though, remained the main area of focus, with Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming both stressing on the need to show more intent. The Super Kings have chased in each of their seven games so far, but haven't been able to keep pace with the required run rate in their defeats. On Saturday too, the required run rate went from 10.28 at the end of the powerplay to 14.90 by the time the 15th over was done. At that stage, Dhoni had just come in and the big-hitting trio of Sam Curran, Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo was still in the dugout. When they did bat at the death, wickets fell in a clump as they sought to address the mounting asking rate.
"I think they are better off playing the other way round, where you look to play the bigger shots [all through]," Dhoni said. "Even if you get out it's fine you know, because we can't really leave too many after the 15th over or the 16th over. That just puts some extra pressure on the batters who are lower down the order. That is something we can do in the coming games. It's something we have to look at.
"Our main worry still remains the batting department where we have not been very consistent. In the coming games we'll try to be slightly more expressive on the field. Rather get out in the 17th or 18th over than having wickets [in hand] but at the end of the 20th over you don't really have enough on the board."
Against the Royal Challengers, the pair of N Jagadeesan (on IPL debut) and Ambati Rayudu put on 64 runs for the third wicket, but at only 7.38 runs per over. Fleming echoed Dhoni's points about the team leaving too much to do at the backend of the innings.
"If we don't get a good start at the top with our two overseas players (Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis), we're falling into a hole," Fleming said. "So we're looking for positive solutions. What I'd like is a little bit more intensity through the middle overs. We've got plenty of batting, and while we're recovering pretty well we are just ending up with too much to do at the back. So trying to release the shackles and just allow those at the end a little bit more freedom.
"The other point is we've chased every game and the wickets are getting slower. It's not easy, once you lose wickets... But I'd like to see a bit more intent. It's not that you can just keep swinging - there is some challenging bowling - but intent is what we're after."