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CSK vs GT showed that the CSK campaign for this season has fizzled out. Fingers will now be pointed at the captaincy shift just ahead of the 2022 season opener. When CSK crashed out of the 2020 season, pundits were quick to blame Dhoni and his methods and selection processes for the defeats.

Diehard fans will hope against hope that it’s not all over this season. In a 10-team tournament, however, mathematical chances do not hold much value. The top two teams will now have to beat every other team in the bottom half and win all matches themselves to get to the magic number of 18 points. And that still may not be enough for CSK to make it to the play-offs.

With the lack of momentum and sharpness in their bowling that was only all too evident in the CSK vs GT match, things are looking as bleak as 2020. Back then their ‘future stars’ were experienced but old and tired with the likes of Chawla, Kedar Jadhav, Watson and Murali Vijay huffing and puffing to 14 games. But now future remains so bright. More on this later.

The reasons for such a shambolic title defence is too evident to miss the eye. The bowling looks too weak and doesn’t instill fear among the opponents. Mumbai have Bumrah, Gujarat have Rashid and Punjab have Rabada and so on. These players lead the attack and often create havoc. Most batters tend to see them off and do not attack them until they really have to. CSK do not have that kind of a player. With Deepak Chahar missing the entire season due to injury, it is safe to assume that they will end their campaign without this impactful fast bowler. The CSK vs GT game once again brought out the importance of Chahar.

Now let’s discuss the off field changes. Dhoni decided it was the right time for Jadeja to experience IPL as a captain and decided to step aside, just ahead of the season opener. Even though CSK management backed Jadeja fully, it certainly had an impact in the dressing room.

The legacy and the aura Dhoni brings as a captain is no longer there. It became Jadeja’s team but picked by Dhoni. The squad was assembled according to Dhoni’s idea of cricket. One quality powerplay bowler and a couple of decent spinners plus Bravo — the rest were just bought as backup options.

Jadeja is learning the trade as he goes along and fans will have to swallow the bitter pill called transition. As Manchester United went on a dreadful premier league campaign when Sir Alex stepped aside, things were similar. The most successful manager of the club had handpicked a successor and it didn’t work out.

After 2020, Dhoni turned it around but was aided by a mini auction. So Jadeja needs to be given time to deliver the results, but does he have enough tactical nuance to turn this around next season with the same squad?

After 2020, Dhoni turned it around but was aided by a mini auction. So Jadeja needs to be given time to deliver the results, but does he have enough tactical nuance to turn this around next season with the same squad? Only time will tell.

Lion cubs
Perhaps the only possible bright spark from this campaign has been the emergence of the next core of Indian players that Jadeja can build around. Dhoni had Murali Vijay, Balaji, Raina and Badrinath in the initial years and Rayudu in the comeback year. In 2023, Jadeja will have the likes of Gaikwad, Dube, Chahar and Jagadeesan.

The promising u-19 pacer Hangargekar might also get a go sometime this season. Perhaps even Mukesh Choudhary can improve his death bowling and come back stronger next year. Remember when CSK tried out all their playing squad after crashing out of the 2020 season? They can look to do the same after 10 games and give opportunities for players to express themselves.

Many teams struggle to obtain the luxury of having a young Indian core suited to a particular franchise, but CSK have done it again after 10 years. Once Jadeja gets used to being the 4D (Batting, bowling, fielding +captaincy) player, CSK will roar back in style with the lion cubs leading the way.

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