IPL: Had to keep in mind to at least qualify for top 2, says Dhoni

Mohali: Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s aim was to take the game against KXIP deep and ensure a top-two finish for defending champions CSK once he realised that the KL Rahul blitzkrieg has sealed the deal for the home team.

Kings XI Punjab beat CSK by six wickets in the final group league encounter between the two teams. A team that enters IPL play-offs as either table-toppers or No. 2 would get two clear shots at summit clash qualification.

“If you can’t win a game, you make sure you get the opposition to get the runs in most number of overs. (Qualifying for top 2) Yes, and that’s something you have to keep in mind,” Dhoni said after the match.

“We want to win the game, but if the opposition does well, you have to quickly adapt and re-assess,” said Dhoni at the post match presentation ceremony. CSK lost to Kings XI Punjab by six wickets after the hosts chased down the target of 171 runs in 18 overs.

But CSK would be happy that with a net run-rate of +0.131 which is far better than Delhi Capitals’ +0.044, the defending champions will remain in the top two having two chances to qualify for the IPL finals, even if Mumbai Indians beat Kolkata Knight Riders in the evening game.

Dhoni applauded his bowlers for pulling things back and not letting KXIP batsmen finish the game earlier. “The first seven overs, we were quite down, but then the bowlers were able to pull things back a little bit. They bowled well in the last 8-9 overs for us.”

The former India captain said KXIP put on a good batting effort. “You need to give credit to them. They bowled really well. We had to get a par score, but it was difficult with their three spinners…it was difficult to manoeuvre in the first 6 overs. Overall, it was a really good batting effort from their side. KL (Rahul, who scored 36-ball 71) batted really well and (Nicholas) Pooran towards the end was good with his lusty hits. We did whatever we could, it did not work for us.” KXIP skipper Ravichandran Ashwin said his team would have to build a core group for the next seasons.

“We haven’t qualified but we have to build a core group to keep going for the next few seasons. CSK has a fulcrum of how they go about things, same with MI, Sunrisers Hyderabad does it differently. We have to look at that in the future. We have to post a score that you can defend and some of the best teams do that very consistently,” said Ashwin.

India off-spinner said his team failed to win the close humdingers during the league phase. “It was not easy for us, but we haven’t been outplayed much in many games, except against Sunrisers Hyderabad. We just haven’t been able to close out the close humdingers.

“We have played some good cricket, and building on this is very important. There are a few reasons, we didn’t close out games, particularly in the Powerplay and our middle-order. I feel that when teams plan and come back to us, we need to respond properly. That’s where some teams tick the box – they have played together for a long time,” he said.

Man-of-the-match K L Rahul admitted that he finally played freely as his team had nothing to lose with KXIP already out of the play-offs race. “I’ve been holding myself back till the last game, because my role was different – playing 20 overs and holding up one end. We knew there wasn’t much left for us in this game. But sometimes, you have to alter your game and play according to how the team wants, but tonight I was playing much more freely.

“It came out very well today as my strike-rate was much higher. But looking back at it from a personal and team point of view, my strike-rate has dropped, but I have won more games for my team this year,” said the opener.

Rahul said when a batsman has runs behind him, he could play with a lot more freedom. “You have to curb your shots at times, and if I did that last year, we could have done better. Having runs behind you always helps you play with a lot of freedom and not think too much and just react to the ball – that only helps you when you have runs behind you,” he said.