Dhoni made all the difference, says Raina

Chennai: MS Dhoni was back to lead Chennai Super Kings after missing the last game due to illness and his return helped CSK to get back to winning ways as they defeated Delhi Capitals comprehensively by 80 runs to prevail in the battle for the top two spot.

MS Dhoni was particularly instrumental in the win as he smashed 44 not out off just 22 balls including two boundaries and two sixes to propel his team to 179 for 4 after they were put into bat first.

Suresh Raina chipped in with a useful half-century. Chasing 180 to win, Delhi Capitals struggled to consolidate a good start as they struggled against CSK’s spinners and fell like a pack of cards, losing all their wickets with just 99 runs on the board. Imran Tahir took four wickets while Jadeja picked up three wickets, helping the home team end their league stage at home on a high.

Speaking after the match during the post-match conference, Suresh Raina said it was a blessing to lose the toss as the wicket became difficult to bat in the second innings. “It was a blessing for us to lose the toss. The wicket was a bit difficult when they were batting second. I think the game really set up for us after the sixth over. Faf and Watto really played carefully initially for the first three overs. Later on, I and Faf had a good partnership and later on Dhoni and Jadeja. So I think it was important to have wickets in hand and then you can bank in your big hitting shots. Playing in Chennai, you need to put extra 20 -30 runs on the board and later on Jadeja, Tahir and Harbhajan bowled really well.”

Chennai scored just three runs in the first three overs and when Watson got out Raina and Du Plessis continued to start slowly. When asked what was the plan at that time, he said “My plan was to play through the powerplay. I knew they had few spinners and good quality fast bowlers. I need to just stick there and rotate the strike. That was what I was telling to Faf also. It was important to play very very smart cricket in Chennai. Only after six overs, the game starts here. It was important to have wickets in hand and later with players like Dhoni, Rayudu and Jadeja you can always score extra 30 runs.”

When asked to compare CSK’s last year performance and this year Rains said the current bowling line up is the best tan that of the last year. “We played in two different venues. In Chennai, you need a lot of character especially when it comes to fitness and mentally you need to be in the game all the time. You just can’t play one good over and defend the next. You just have to rotate the strike and if you have wickets in hand you can score that extra 30-40 runs. In Pune when we played last year, the weather was good and everyone was above 30 years of age so it was important to look after the body as well. The weather has to play a key role for us and this year we bowled really well throughout the season. In the last two years this is the best bowling lineup we had.”

Dhoni took everyone by surprise as he affected two excellent stumpings in a space of three balls to dismiss Chris Morris and Shreyas Iyer, off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja. Speaking about it, Raina said “I think he has been amazing. The way he executed two brilliant stumpings against Shreyas Iyer and Morris it shows how compact he is when it comes to a skill and I still remember when I was with the Indian team in 2004, Syed Kirmani was very happy with his skills. He exactly knows which ball is turning from the middle stump and which one is turning from the leg stump and that’s why his hand speed is so amazing. The two stumpings were brilliant and it made all the difference. Jadeja was spinning so much and rest is history. He has been amazing with his skills. I have been seeing him and he has done amazing stumpings which shows how much involved he is in the game.”

Raina was forced to captain CSK for a couple of games this season and the team lost both games, when asked about the challenge of leading CSK without Dhoni, he says  “As a captain, I have done well for Gujarat Lions and couple of games for India as well. Losing Dhoni as a captain is not an issue but losing him as a batsman is always difficult. That was what happened against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians. He gives lot of freedom to other players in the team and creates pressure on the opposition. So I think when Dhoni is not in the team you see the difference. He has done really well in the lasts couple of years as a captain and as a mentor. Probably you may see me more as a captain next season when he says I am done now and you look after the team, but I still need more of his calibre.”

Losing captain Shreyas Iyer said, “I think it was a good reality check for us because the way we started, we should have converted it and atleast should have got closer to the target. It was disappointing with the way we progressed after that start. We lost wickets in successions and did not play that smart. We need to asses what went wrong and comne back stronger in the next game.”

The tournament’s leading wicket-taker Kagiso Rabada was rested as he suffered a niggle and Ishant was also rested in place of Jagadeesa Suchith. When asked when this experimental move went wrong, he said “You can’t blame the bowlers in such situations. You have MS Dhoni batting in front and you know how he changes the momentum of the game. He is a very experienced player and he can change the match from ball one and if he stays definitely he is going to put a big total on the board and bowlers obviously feel the pressure. We got a great start and we could have curtailed them but it was really unfortunate that bowlers gave runs.”

Aaditya Anand M