CSK vs MI What caught our Eye: Matheesha’s poised celebrations after 4 fine wickets, Ruturaj Gaikwad tees off at No 3 and Shivam Dube goes ballistic


Matheesha Pathirana, admittedly, is a diehard fan of Cristiano Ronaldo. But his celebrations are of a milder nature, lacking the ferocious energy of the Portugal legend’s Siu leap. Pathirana pauses in his post-follow-through dash, lifts his fingers skywards, the digits corresponding to his wickets. Then he shuts his eyes and folds his arms in the middle of the chest, as though whispering a silent prayer. He then opens his eyes, smiles eloquently and joins the celebrations. It could be a prayer, as he is a devout Buddhist and attended a Buddhist religious school, and his father Anura once told the Sunday Observer: “My son is a devoted Buddhist who attended Daham pasal in his childhood. As a family we observe Sil (eight-fold path of Buddha) and participate in most religious programs held in our village temple. I think religion helps to develop a person’s mind.” His celebrations could be of a peaceful nature, but the balls that his low-slung arm propel are pure violence.

Applauding hands for Thakur

The first three overs of Shardul Thakur were utterly forgettable. It was nothing but an assortment of wayward length balls that drew bloodshot stares from MS Dhoni. But Thakur has a knack of shaping games, of redeeming himself. The first contribution was a composed catch of Tilak Varma. It was a skier lost in the floodlights. Thakur was not entirely under it. His technique looked clumsy, his reaction late. But however innocuous he might look, he accomplishes his job. He clung onto the catch, despite stumbling, thus breaking a potentially match-swinging stand, and then delivered a perfect over, an exhibition of slower-ball proficiency. All six were slower ones—ranging from 118 to 121 kph—back of length and thereabouts with little room to free the arms or length to manufacture the booming shots. Five off them were off-cutters, one was a delicious leg-cutter that outfoxed Hardik Pandya, who looked lost and lonely. All Mumbai Indians managed was two singles. He might not be a crowd puller, but the Mumbai crowd gave the Mumbai-boy a generous applause.

How settled are Chennai?

Having played 5 matches prior to Sunday, you would expect Chennai Super Kings to know what their best XI is by now. But due to injuries and niggles, they still appear far from being a settled unit. They have had three wins out of those, but they don’t look like an all-round side on the field. It is the reason why they have struggled away from home. And this continued at the Wankhede as well, as out walked Ajinkya Rahane in place of Ruturaj Gaikwad as opener alongside Rachin Ravindra. It was as off-field call but the move lasted just 1.4 overs as Rahane went back after making just 5 runs.

The match-up masters

Shivam Dube’s six hitting prowess has disrupted many an opposition’s Plan A in the middle overs. It has seen opposition’s main spinner not even completing their quota. On Sunday with Mohammad Nabi and Shreyas Gopal in the XI, it was always interesting to see how Mumbai would go about their resources. And they straight away got down to using Nabi opening the bowling, and he yielded just 19 from his first 3 overs. This meant against CSK’s middle-order which has favourable match-ups against spinners, MI could unleash their pacers.

Ruturaj’s flying start

Festive offer

Ruturaj Gaikwad had a little grin on his face at the end of CSK’s last match as he played a steady hand in the run-chase against KKR at Chepauk. He joked about his innings, “…it was perfect where I could take my time a little bit. But something to talk for experts about my strike rate.” On Sunday, he didn’t open the batting against MI at the Wankhede but coming in at No 3, got off to perhaps his best start of the season so far. At the end of the powerplay, the CSK captain raced to 29 off 17 at a strike rate of 170.6. And it wasn’t just the conventional strokeplay he is known for. He was ready to play the field against Gerald Coetzee by backing away from the stumps and targeting the offside. Coach Stephen Fleming said before the match about CSK’s latest ‘cool’ captain, “He is unfairly put into a bracket where he’s been called slow. But you have to have context to some of these stats. We know that it’s a bit of a Bollywood movie, sometimes getting these things up onto the screen (…) I have absolutely no doubt about Ruturaj.” And in the land of Bollywood, he was off to a flier.

The big over CSK needed

After losing the toss and batting first, for CSK to stay in the game against Mumbai’s batting might, they needed a big score. After going at only 7 an over till the 9th over, the middle-over provided CSK the charge they desperately sought. The next five overs provided them 67 runs with Shivam Dube doing most of the damage. With Gaikwad also pressing the accelerator, CSK swiftly moved to the top gear, setting up for a grand finish.

Mumbai’s Chennai fans

Chennai Super Kings fans are known to be the noisiest, filling up away stadia whenever their team is playing, making every away match feel like a home match. It’s no different at the Wankhede, though the jury’s still out if the Mumbai Indian fans may have just managed to outnumber them and prevented a sea of yellow. Mind you, there’s plenty of bright yellow, and they’re loud. There’s a deafening noise every time MS Dhoni has been shown on screen – whether he’s sipping some chai or casually talking to a teammate – and every time CSK hits a boundary or maximum. When Dhoni actually came out to bat, the four deliveries he faced were pandemonium.

Dube on fire… again

Unless one is blessed with express pace, there’s no point in bowling to Shivam Dube these days. The length and line doesn’t seem to matter. The ball could be on off-stump, middle, or leg-stump, full, short or anything in between, the tall left-hander can hit it deep into the stands. Dube has arguably been the most dangerous batsman in IPL 2024, with the ball aimed at his ribs or shoulders no longer his Achilles Heel. At his domestic homeground on Sunday, he proved once again that the Wankhede boundary was nowhere near far enough. Hardik Pandya and Romario Shepherd kept digging it in short, but Dube was ready for it every time. Most of his early boundaries came off deliveries either pitched short or on a length, but at their pace it wasn’t very effective. When the ball was pitched up, Dube teed off like a golfer. When the extra pace of Jasprit Bumrah, Akash Madhwal and Gerald Coetzee arrived, he was up to it as well, often using the velocity to his own advantage. The commentators are talking up Dube’s prospects for the upcoming T20 World Cup, and based on the evidence of what he has done in the IPL this season, it’s a valid argument.

6,6,6

So far in this season, Dhoni’s campaign may not have made a big difference. But not today. Coming in in the last over, he smashed three sixes off Hardik Pandya with Wankhede not needing any second invite to voice their approval of Dhoni. There was something vintage about his knock as all his three sixes went in three different directions, with power and timing being the hallmark of those. It was the perfect finish one could have hoped from the GOAT. Wankhede turned into WankheDen. Again.

MS, and nothing else matters

MS Dhoni faced only four balls. That’s all that mattered. Three of them, he ferried over the ropes, the most famous bottom-hand in the game whirring. The first was throwback Dhoni, one that would have whipped up instant nostalgia, an untrammeled swing, standing tall and slapping the ball high and over long-off, an area he rarely dispatches the ball to these days. The next was a proper clout, a stroke of pure violence that Dhoni has dialed through his career, one that accentuates his bottom-handed brutality, one that whistled by where he had thumped the most famous six of all. The last was more deftness than force, when he laser-guided a leg-side full toss over deep square leg with a whirl of the furious wrists. For those fleeting but eternal minutes, the fiercely proud Mumbai Indians fans sank their loyalties into the Arabian Sea and celebrated wildly. It was MS Dhoni. Nothing else mattered.

Top gear

There is a reason why everyone picked MI among favourites for the season. Apart from having the lethal Jasprit Bumrah, MI’s batting might is too strong to take down any attack. With a good mix of left-right batsmen, and power-hitters Tim David and Romario Shepherd, Mumbai’s top-order has the license to play with plenty of freedom. And in many ways, batting second, strengthens them further as it allows them to gauge the conditions and launch calculative assault. With a 200-plus target to chase, MI openers Rohit Sharma and Ishan Kishan wasted no time to make their intentions clear as they went at over 10 runs an over. Talk about intent

No Nagin dance, just Bangla-Lankan charm

Bangladesh and Sri Lankan players may not enjoy the best of friendship on the field. But for CSK, Mustafizur Rahman and Matheesha Pathirana combined well at the death to set up an impressive win at Wankhede. For a team that started as underdogs, they shocked Mumbai at their own game.

KKR beat LSG by 8 wickets

Poster stuff from Rahul

CSK team Kolkata Knight Riders and Lucknow Super Giants handshaking during match 28 of the Indian Premier League season 17 (IPL 2024) between Kolkata Knight Riders and Lucknow Super Giants held at the Eden gardens Stadium, Kolkata on the 14th April 2024.
Photo by Tamal Das/ Sportzpics for IPL

There is plenty to debate about KL Rahul’s approach in T20 format. Irrespective of the pitch, he is not known to hit the top gear straight away. And the most frustrating part of it all is, how he keeps all the shots safely in the locker. However, in those rare moments when he unleashes those shots, there are very few who could look as stylish as him. His six off Vaibhav Arora was one such. To a full length ball outside off, he effortlessly deposited it over cover. Later on as Mitchell Starc got one to angle away, he fetched a boundary over covers, by just using his wrists. Rahul, more of such shots please.

Old school T20 approach

Be it under Andy Flower in the last two seasons or now under Justin Langer, Lucknow’s approach with the bat is a throw back to the early days of T20s. Keep wickets in hand and go for the shots in the end. It means Lucknow are not maximising the potential of Nicholas Pooran and Marcus Stoinis, two batsmen who are game changers in the format. At Eden Gardens despite having a lightening quick outfield on offering, the manner in which Rahul and Ayush Badoni rebuilt their innings was perplexing. In the first 10 overs, there were just 8 boundaries and a six. One expected Langer, who saw considerable success as coach of Perth Scorchers in Big Bash League and a trend setter, to change Lucknow’s approach. But for whatever reason, LSG believe it is more safe option .

Starc attack

Mitchell Starc, the most expensive player in the IPL, has struggled to hit the right notes. Apart from being expensive, even wickets were hard to come by. KKR’s bowling coach Bharat Arun’s advice to Starc was to just stick to what works for him. And on Sunday afternoon, he bowled a terrific spell, picking up three wickets for just 28 runs in his quota of four overs. The most striking aspect was he bowled three in the powerplay, never letting LSG batsmen any easy offerings. And in the final over, the last of LSG innings, he accounted for the key wicket of Nicholas Pooran giving away just six runs. Starc was smiling and so were Kolkata.



Leave a Comment