Chennai Super Kings have had a terrific start to their campaign in IPL 2021 and are sitting pretty in pole position after winning five of their first six matches in the tournament. They have dramatically changed their fortunes from the previous edition and almost appear to be a new outfit. One of the major reasons behind their early success this year has been the brilliant performances of the South African opener – Faf du Plessis. Incidentally, Du Plessis was the only shining light in an otherwise poor batting display by the CSK top order in the last edition too.
Du Plessis is the highest scorer so far in IPL 2021 with an aggregate of 270 runs in 6 innings. Not only has he scored big runs but scored them at a very good rate – as indicated by his scoring rate of 140.62. Coupled with that is his consistency – after starting the tournament with a duck against the Delhi Capitals, Du Plessis has scored 30-plus in all the remaining five matches crossing fifty in the last three.
He gave the innings the impetus at the start with 33 off just 17 deliveries against the Royals in Mumbai. Even though CSK kept losing wickets, everyone chipped in and they managed to post a more than competitive 188. Du Plessis was the top-scorer of the innings and it was due to the initiative he showed in the powerplay that CSK were able to push towards the death.
Du Plessis then hammered a brilliant unbeaten 95 off just 60 deliveries against the Knight Riders in Mumbai helping CSK to post a mammoth 200-plus total which ultimately proved too much for the opposition. He followed that with a half-century against the Challengers – this time adjusting his game to play more the role of the anchor as the batsmen around him went on the offensive.
He put together the second hundred-plus partnership for the opening wicket of the season with Ruturaj Gaikwad scoring 56 off 38 deliveries as CSK chased down 171 posted by the Sunrisers with plenty to spare.
Not only has Du Plessis been the Mr Consistent for CSK at the top of the order, his presence and form has also helped the talented Gaikwad at the other end. The 24-year old began the competition with three failures but has completely transformed thereafter with two high impact performances in three matches. The surety provided by Du Plessis at one end is helping Gaikwad play his natural game and maximize his potential at the other.
CSK had their worst tournament in 2020 not qualifying for the playoffs for the very first time in the IPL. The major cause of their shocking performance was the poor display by their top and middle order. CSK tried as many as 5 different combinations of openers in the UAE and although there were some big partnerships, there was no consistency at the top of the order. Overall, their openers managed to stitch together just one century stand and three fifty partnerships in the entire season.
The story has changed completely this year. Almost half-way into the competition and CSK have only played with one opening pair of Du Plessis and Gaikwad who have already put together two century partnerships and one fifty stand in the edition. The platform laid down by the openers is helping the CSK middle-order to build the innings and push for a big match-winning total – they have recorded four 180-plus totals batting first and chased down a total between 170-180 with plenty of resources in hand.
One of the major reasons for their poor show last season was the collapse of their top and middle order. That has completely gone out of the window this year. The batting has clicked in all the six matches. And a major credit for that has to be given to the foundation laid by Du Plessis at the top of the order.
Incidentally, Du Plessis was the highest scorer for CSK in 2020 too. He aggregated 449 runs in 13 innings at a strike rate of 140.75 including 4 fifties. He had started the tournament with a bang but later saw his returns diminish withered by the performance of his team.
He has started IPL 2021 on the same note. With others in the top and middle order also firing this time around, the story could be very different for the Super Kings this year.