Mumbai: Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are 27/3, chasing a modest 152-run total against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), Ankit Rajpoot is on a hot burner, bowling jaffers. Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis and Sam Billings are out and back in the dugout. The fans, at the adopted home ground in Pune and those watching it on TV, are expecting MS Dhoni or Dwayne Bravo or Ravindra Jadeja walk out to the middle. Who comes out to bat? Harbhajan Singh. Who follows Harbhajan Singh? Deepak Chahar.
Mumbai Indians (MI) have dismissed Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) for 118 at fortress Wankhede. 118 is not even a modest total in 20-overs cricket and remember there’s neither Bhuvneshwar Kumar nor Billy Stanlake in the team.
There should have been panic; at least a bit. There should have been chaos. But it did not seem there was any; at least not within CSK and SRH dugouts. If at all, there was any, it was in the minds of KXIP and MI players. CSK won their game by 5 wickets and 5 balls to spare. SRH won their game, beating MI by 31 runs in their own den.
While a few were taken aback with these moves, the man, who executed the move, brought out “chaos” theory to justify those batting promotions for Bhajji and Chahar. “From a captain's perspective, you want to take as many wickets upfront. So sending in Bhajji and Chahar creates chaos. The bowlers all of a sudden bowl yorkers and bouncers. When batsmen are batting, they stick to a good line and length, but against Bhajji and Chahar, they lose their line and lengths, instead of sticking to the plan. Plus Bhajji and Chahar could come in handy during the playoffs,” Dhoni said during his post-match interview.
Williamson did not say it in as many words, but his “We held our heads high and at the same time the best part is how well the guys performed in the second half of the game” pretty much summed up how SRH went about their business.
If one had to write a story of IPL 2018, it could well be of Dhoni and Williamson, of Captain Cool and Captain Cooler and how one turned the clock back to be the best finisher and big hitter and how the other gave enough evidences of how he has the ability to change gears, without changing much of his batting style, and the game to succeed in the shortest format of the game. And while, this could well turn out to be one of their best IPL seasons ever with the bat (446 runs and 661 runs respectively), the way they have captained the side has been remarkable.
There was excitement and chaos around them with one team coming back to IPL after two years, while another had lost their captain, David Warner, after being barred from IPL following Cricket Australia’s one-year ban for his involvement in ball-tampering saga. But Dhoni, with all his experience and trademark calmness, has not allowed the comeback euphoria and “aging team” remarks affect the team while Williamson has stood tall and created an air of calm around SRH to take them to the playoffs.
After squaring off twice in the league stage twice, Dhoni’s CSK and Williamson’s SRH will be up against each other for the third time and may end up playing for the 4th time in the final. Neither may or not win the IPL 2018, but if they happen to be, it may well be a story worth telling again and again.