Champions League T20: Chennai Super Kings look firm favourite to lift title

By Feroz Khan | Updated: Sep 30, 2013, 16:31 PM IST

Feroz Khan

JSCA International Stadium Complex - The state that houses this cricket stadium is known among cricket aficionados as the home to Indian cricket team`s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. On Saturday at JSCA, Dhoni was captaining another cricket team that has become synonymous with his name. In fact, that team of his has played all its league matches of Champions League T20 there only. It was the penultimate delivery of the 16th over of Chennai Super Kings` innings as they looked to chase a gettable 138-run target set by Australian side Brisbane Heats. On strike was Dhoni and as has become a norm these days, Mahi delighted his fans by hitting the winning runs with a flourish by launching Ben Cutting for a six over long-off boundary. It was not just another signature move from a man who has been making waves with his new haircut of late but a statement of intent that his side remains oblivious to the off field developments that have kept his IPL side in the news for wrong reasons.

They mean business here.

So far, Chennai Super Kings has been the most dominant team of the CLT20 tournament. From their first game onwards, the team has displayed utter ruthlessness in their approach even though batting takes the maximum credit for their brilliant show. In their opening encounter of the tournament, they chased down a target of 186 runs with seven deliveries to spare. And this they did even after two of their batsmen ended up with a big `O` against their name plus their captain also failed to make a significant contribution. It was all thanks to the platform set by veteran Aussie Michael Hussey and workhorse Suresh Raina who shared 89 runs for the third wicket after Murali Vijay went cheaply. The finishing touches were provided by Dwayne Bravo.

In their second game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Raina continued to milk bowlers for plenty and looked set for a T20 century before being caught by Thisara Perera off Dale Steyn. However, it was Dhoni who stunned everyone with his murderous approach as he went on to score the quickest fifty in Champions League`s short history. Perera would remember the night for Dhoni literally destroyed him taking a whopping 34 runs from his third over of the game. It was largely because of the efforts of Dhoni and Raina that CSK posted in excess of 200 runs and eventually went on to win the match.

However, there was one thing that must have been pinching Dhoni after the first two games even though his side was winning comfortably. Ravindra Jadeja, the top-ranked ODI bowler at the moment and who is known for his dead accuracy, kept leaking runs in plenty. Owing to his woeful form, Dhoni made him bowl only four overs in the first two games. In the first match against Titans, he did pick a wicket but ended up gifting 49 runs in the process. In the next, Dhoni took him off only after he had sent down six deliveries in which Darren Sammy hit him out of the park on three occasions.

Even after two consecutive off days, Dhoni kept faith in his `blue eyed boy` and threw him the rock just after the end of power plays in their third match. Brisbane Heats were 54/2 and after his introduction in the seventh over, they were reduced to 55/4. In his next three overs, he couldn`t pick another wicket but was back to doing what he is known for - blocking the run flow from his end and taking wickets. He took 2/18 in his four overs. The return of Vijay among the run scorers also came as a relief for CSK in the match who failed to score in the first two games.

With their comfortable win against Brisbane, CSK sailed to the semis and now seem favourite to win the CLT20 trophy for the second time. With their top order firing on all cylinders, a middle order boasting of dependable Subramaniam Badrinath, entertainer Dwayne Bravo, MS Dhoni and a lower order comprising Ravindra Jadeja and Albie Morkel, their batting line up gives a formidable look.

While the performances of their slow bowlers have improved, the pacers have been a bit wasteful. If they can iron out this one last remaining flaw, the trophy looks all set to adore Dhoni`s brimming cabinet of silverwares.