Chennai Super Kings had already qualified for the semi-finals of the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) 2013 before their eight-wicket loss toTrinidad and Tobago on Wednesday. What that did was that they lost the top spot in Group B and will now face Rajasthan Royals at their fortress in Jaipur. Shrikant Shankar ponders whether it was complacency that cost Chennai the match and whether that could have a negative effect in the team’s fortunes.
From the beginning of the Indian Premier League (IPL), there has been one team that has been more consistent than any other. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have reached five of the six IPL finals so far and triumphed in two. They also won the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) title in 2010 in South Africa. Some teams look great on paper, but do not match their potential. Some teams might not have the star attractions, yet punch above their weight. Chennai, however, have a great team on paper and have the results to show for it as well.
There is a recent growing trend that MS Dhoni’s team would want to do without — failing to win more titles. Chennai have lost the last two IPL finals and in both they were in control for a good part of those matches. After their 2010 CLT20 triumph, they failed to advance to the semi-final stages in the next two editions. They have been the bridesmaid for the last few years. Now they have another chance to reach the final of the CLT20. They had comfortable wins in their first three matches in Group B to qualify for the semi-finals.
Chennai beat Titans by four wickets in their opening match. They then beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by 12 runs and then followed that with an eight-wicket win over Brisbane Heat. But their route to the final has become a lot tougher after their humbling loss to Trinidad and Tobago in the last group match. Just a few hours earlier everyone was talking about a showdown between Chennai and current IPL champions Mumbai Indians in the semi-finals. But Chennai’s eight-wicket loss knocked them off top spot and finished second.
They now face Rajasthan Royals in the semi-finals and that too at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. That ground has seen Rajasthan win four out of four matches in this year’s CLT20, along with remaining unbeaten during the 2013 IPL. Even with all their might, Chennai might find it very difficult to get past Rahul Dravid’s well-drilled unit. They could have faced Mumbai in New Delhi at the Feroz Shah Kotla and both would have started the match as equals. Now they face a team that knows the conditions of the ground as good as the back of their hands.
So what caused Chennai to go from table toppers to second-best in Group B? Complacency has definitely some part to play in this. Trinidad had their backs against the wall and needed to win the match by a comfortable margin. They first bowled out Chennai for 118 and then chased down the target in 15.1 overs. This caused Chennai to lose top spot in the group. For a team like Chennai, with the batting talents at their disposal, getting bowled out for a paltry score is unacceptable. Dhoni said that they were easily 15-20 runs short with their total.
Obviously, Chennai are well capable of winning against Rajasthan and reaching the final, and all this talk of complacency can be thrown out. But looking at Wednesday’s events, especially after Mumbai’s thrilling win over Perth Scorchers, it is hard to not dream about a Mumbai-Rajasthan final. Sachin Tendulkar against Rahul Dravid: both their last T20 matches played against each other. Now that is mouthwatering.
But what Chennai need to do, if they are to play spoilsport, is to play to their potential and invariably they would be too good for Rajasthan. Chennai have been in a good position over the last six years, but they have not capitalised on every opportunity that has come their way. Such a golden run does not last for very long in any sport. So, Chennai must seize this moment and not let it slip.
(Shrikant Shankarpreviously worked with Mobile ESPN, where he did audio commentary for many matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20. He has also written many articles involving other sports for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)