Dwayne Smith (left) and Brendon McCullum have been the most successful opening pair this season © PTI
Chennai Super Kings had one of the settled opening pair in Michael Hussey and Murali Vijay. After their exit from the franchise, CSK have hit the jackpot with Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith, says R Vishal.
After a soul-crushing defeat against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in their tournament opener, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have cruised to six wins out of their next six games have yet again earned the right to being named as tournament favourites in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014.
Chennai lost Michael Hussey and Murali Vijay in the IPL auctions, which was a crushing blow as the duo have been set the tone and have been part of many a glory night with the two-time IPL winners. While replacing them was always going to be a tall ask, Chennai swiftly moved in the auctions to snap the T20 honcho, Brendon McCullum and the hard-hitting West Indian, Dwayne Smith.
With Faf du Plessis in the mix, some teams in the past have had their team balance going haywire to going in with three specialist batsmen in the foreigners slot. Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in their pre 2012 days immediately spring to mind.
While it was a risk, Chennai have pulled off yet another coup and the fruits of it are there to be seen. The duo have been at their menacing best in this tournament. It must be said that Smith’s sublime form has put the gloss on the partnership. In seven matches so far, the right-handed marauders have put one 80+ and a 100+ plus stand and have looked menacing in the other games as well.
Smith and McCullum have been the best opening pair in IPL 2014 by a country-mile and opponents would have already laid down the marker on them. Smith’s has already scored four half-centuries and has been a glutton for big scores so far and IPL’s first centurion, McCullum has taken the sheet anchor’s role so far.
In Chennai’s previous encounter against Delhi Daredevils, they only lost a mere two wickets to chase down a huge score. With the avalanche of muscle power and finesse that MS Dhoni’s team possesses, making inroads through Smith and McCullum will be vital for opponents.
Vijay and Hussey are the all-time greatest pair of the IPL so far. The pinnacle of Indo-Australian duo was decimating the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the IPL 2011 final with a mammoth 159-run opening stand which all but killed the tie.
Vijay and Hussey have amassed 1105 runs at a superlative average of 40.92 and are some way away from the rest of the pack in the IPL all-time openers list. Another encouraging sign for Chennai is that McCullum has already been the other half of a prolific opening duo with Gautam Gambhir for Kolkata. While they only played 10 innings and scored 533 runs between them, their average of 53.33 is the highest average amongst openers in IPL history.
The seamless way in which Smith and McCullum have fit into a well-oiled machine with a plethora of match winners bodes well in Chennai’s quest for an unprecedented third IPL title.
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(R Vishal is a journalist and alumni of Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)