Chennai Super Kings' (CSK) miserable run in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 continued on Monday, when the MS Dhoni-led suffered a seven-wicket defeat to Rajasthan Royals (RR) at Abu Dhabi. While the win catapulted RR to the fifth spot on the points table - thanks to Jos Buttler's 48-ball 70 not out and fast bowler Jofra Archer's miserly spell -- the defeat pushed the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led CSK to the brink of elimination. Chasing CSK's 125 for five wickets in 20 overs, RR finished at 126 for three wickets in 17.3 overs to round off what was a dominant showing from the bat. (IPL 2020 FULL COVERAGE | IPL 2020 SCHEDULE | IPL 2020 POINTS TABLE)
The match wasn't as close as the scoreline might suggest, and was dominated by comments made after the match by CSK skipper Dhoni. Let's take a look at the major talking points. (IPL 2020 ORANGE CAP | IPL 2020 PURPLE CAP)
Is There Merit to Dhoni's Comments on Youngsters?
In a nutshell, no. Most IPL franchises are blends of youth and experience and there is enough proof to suggest that throwing youngsters into the mix - to whatever degree - is more of a help than it is a hindrance. However, CSK's 'Dad Army' were the exception to that rule - until now.
The simple fact of the matter is that Father Time waits for no one. While CSK's reliance on their elder statesmen has paid dividends in recent years, it is clear now that leaning on them too hard has left the side woefully underprepared for life after their inevitable retirement. At this moment, an injection of fresh blood is exactly what CSK need, contrary to Dhoni's belief. It's not like they have anything to lose.
Middle-over Crawl Dooms CSK... Again
That CSK set such a below-par target while batting first was down to another familiar foe they have encountered this season: not scoring enough in the middle overs. In all fairness, Rajasthan Royals' plan of asking their slower bowlers to keep floating the ball up with minimal pace on a track that offered some grip was a good one and absolutely choked the flow of runs.
However, there is an argument to be made that Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja looked to play it safe too often and took little to no risks, which is exactly what the batsmen had to do given nothing else was working for them. It didn't help CSK that by the second innings the pitch looked to have eased out and offered little assistance to spinners but 125-5 was never going to be enough.
Buttler Shows Best Form in Best Role
At one point, Rajasthan looked in trouble when they lost 3 wickets in the powerplay. Suddenly, what seemed a cut and dry run chase was in danger of becoming a slog. However Jos Buttler put any nerves to bed with a textbook destructive performance, scoring an unbeaten 70 off 48 balls to almost single-handedly guide the Royals home.
Buttler has floated between an opener and a middle-order role this season, with RR team management believing his destructive hitting would suit them well atop the order. However, the Englishman is at his best as a finisher at Number 5 and that is exactly what he proved at Abu Dhabi. Him getting Dhoni's jersey after the match felt almost fitting in that regard.