While a number of senior players have failed to deliver, skipper MS Dhoni has himself been below par with the bat. In 12 matches this season, he has scored 199 runs at a strike rate of just 118.45. Although the 2021 IPL season is just six months away, the fact that Dhoni is 39 and past his prime means that there is uncertainty surrounding his future as well. The former Indian captain, of course, keeps his cards close to his chest, but CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan insisted that Dhoni will lead the team in 2021 too.
IPL 2020 POINTS TABLE
“Yes, definitely. I am very confident that Dhoni will lead CSK in 2021. He has won three titles for us in the IPL. This is the first year we have not qualified for the playoffs. No other team has done that. One bad year does not mean we will have to change everything,” Viswanathan told TOI on Monday.
“We didn’t play to our potential this season. We lost games that we should have won. That pushed us back. The withdrawals of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh coupled with Covid cases in the camp meant that the balance of the side was upset,” he added.
While Dhoni may continue to lead the side in 2021, it is imperative that the team has a very different look next season. As coach Stephen Fleming said recently, the current team has “run out of juice”. Regardless of whether a fresh mega auction is held ahead of next season, the likes of Raina, Harbhajan, Kedar Jadhav and Piyush Chawla among others are no longer at their best and will have to be offloaded if the three-time IPL champions are to regain their place at the top.
Like the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) on Sunday, the next two games provide an opportunity for CSK to try out more young players and ascertain whether they can be part of the set-up going forward.
On Sunday, of course, Ruturaj Gaikwad made a good impression with an unbeaten 65 off 51 balls to guide CSK to a comfortable eight-wicket victory. Gaikwad has had a tough time in the UAE with Covid-19 prior to the start of the tournament forcing him into an extended quarantine and then scores of 0, 5 and 0 in the three matches before Sunday. The 23-year-old could so easily have been discarded for good, but his innings on Sunday will ensure that he gets a few more opportunities.
Looking ahead, Ruturaj’s innings hopefully reiterates to the CSK management the importance of staying patient and showing faith in the younger uncapped players. A few days ago, Dhoni had suggested that the youngsters had “not shown the spark needed”, but perhaps the best way to judge that is by testing them in the heat of the action. By doing so, they might just unearth a couple of young talents that can be part of a revamped, fresher set-up in 2021.