IPL 2014: Where Did It All Go Wrong for the Chennai Super Kings?
The Chennai Super Kings were blown out of the 2014 Indian Premier League on Friday, as MS Dhoni's men collapsed under the weight of a Virender Sehwag onslaught.
Despite entering the clash at the Wankhede Stadium with significantly more IPL experience, the men in yellow wilted in a fashion rarely seen by Chennai in the IPL's history.
The dramatic loss, which at one point looked to be shaping into an unfathomable triumph, brought about an abrupt halt to the Super Kings' campaign. After such a commanding opening to the tournament, Dhoni's outfit will be wondering where it all went wrong for the competition's most dominant franchise.
Across the following slides, we examine how the once-rampant Chennai team gradually lost its grip of the IPL's 2014 season.
Peaked Too Early
Chennai might have lost their first match of the campaign. But it was clear from the outset that the Super Kings were in fifth gear back in the tournament's UAE leg.
Maintaining that pace across 16 matches in six weeks is extraordinarily difficult.
After thumping their way to a total of 205-4 in their opening match (only to be denied by the Glenn Maxwell and David Miller tandem from Kings XI Punjab), MS Dhoni's side reeled off six consecutive victories. Commanding wins over Delhi (twice), Kolkata and Mumbai made it evident that Chennai were at full throttle from the beginning.
Yet limited-overs tournaments are about the timing of the run. Tournament cricket demands that a team's form completes a crescendo as the finals approach.
As the playoffs arrived in IPL 2014, Chennai's performances were heading the other way.
A second defeat to the Kings XI began a slide for the Super Kings. Three consecutive losses to Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad began a week later.
They simply peaked too soon.
Inability to Contain Kings XI Punjab
Despite quickly surging to the upper reaches of the points table, the Chennai Super Kings weren't able to secure a critical top-two finish at the completion of the league phase.
MS Dhoni's men can point to two disappointing bowling displays against Kings XI Punjab as the culprits.
Although Chennai put together two of the team's most impressive batting performances (205-4 and 187-6) against George Bailey's side, the Super Kings conceded 437 runs in 40 overs against the men in red.
Quite simply, a side as stacked as the Super Kings should expect such totals to prove triumphant on the overwhelming majority of occasions.
Instead, the inability of Chennai's bowling stars in Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohit Sharma to contain Kings XI stripped two victories from MS Dhoni's men.
The losses proved critical: Chennai were denied the opportunity to compete in the first qualifier and found themselves scrambling against the side that had already thwarted them twice.
An identical theme ensued on Friday.
Batting Order Re-Shuffle
As this season's IPL tournament wore on, a degree of uncertainty began to surround Chennai's powerful looking batting line-up.
The first issue arose when West Indian star Dwayne Bravo was ruled out of the remainder of the competition after injuring his shoulder in the opening match.
Searching for a middle-order replacement, the Super Kings plucked 36-year-old David Hussey out of the commentary box in an attempt to cover the loss of Bravo. It didn't work. The Australian looked out of touch and never got going.
To complicate team selection further, Brendon McCullum was forced to fly home to New Zealand for the birth of his child and missed two matches. Faf du Plessis was promoted rather successfully, but the move left the Super Kings' middle order unbalanced.
When McCullum returned, MS Dhoni was forced to juggle continuity against comfort. He found striking a balance difficult.
What resulted was an off-kilter line-up. The constantly moving pieces failed to fire, leaving Suresh Raina as the only man capable of gunning down Kings XI Punjab in the second qualifier.
After his dismissal, only one result was possible.
Overseas Player Conundrum
The IPL's regulations prevent a side from fielding more than four overseas players in any given match—a rule that presented a problem for the Chennai Super Kings in 2014.
With so much of the team's batting strength coming from international players, MS Dhoni was limited in his use of the world's No. 1 ranked Twenty20 bowler, Samuel Badree.
Indeed, the composition of the Super Kings' squad meant that Dhoni was forced to select the likes of Dwayne Smith, Faf du Plessis, Brendon McCullum and David Hussey to form the spine of his batting line-up. That left Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to shoulder the spinning burden, which didn't yield the results that were expected.
Ashwin conceded 7.30 runs per over across the tournament, while Jadeja operated at an economy rate of 8.15. Meanwhile, Badree was significantly more miserly in his limited performances, going at a rate of just 6.92.
But with the overseas player rule complicating matters, Chennai were forced to rely on the Indian pair instead of the outstanding West Indian.
It proved fatal, as both Ashwin and Jadeja were blasted around Wankhede Stadium by Virender Sehwag in Friday's second qualifier, conceding 92 runs in eight combined overs.
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