For a long time, Chennai Super Kings' batting approach was about batting long and deep in the IPL, with a big knock leading the way. But in some of their matches of IPL 2023, they have been well-served by the art of short, sharp cameos propelling them to breach the 200+ mark or reaching a match-winning total.
Against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chennai had Devon Conway and Shivam Dube making fifties at a strike-rate above 180. They were also helped by Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu and Moeen Ali striking above 180 in their cameos to take Chennai to 226/6, which was enough for a win at Chinnaswamy Stadium.
In their home match against Delhi Capitals, none of the Chennai batters reached 30 runs, but were aided by small bursts of 20s from six batters to get a win in their pocket. This trend is not limited to Chennai alone - Punjab Kings chased down 201 against them with multiple cameos while Mumbai Indians chased down 213 against Rajasthan Royals, thanks to Suryakumar Yadav's 55, followed by short yet sharp knocks from Tim David, Cameron Green and Tilak Varma.
Former India cricketer Robin Uthappa believes batters scoring impactful cameos rather than batting deep has been influenced by the impact player rule, though he expressed his worry over this trend reducing the role of all-rounders in T20s.
"With the onset of the impact player, you are essentially playing with seven bowlers and eight full batters. You will see a lot more cameos as batters are going to be that much fearless to go out there and take chances because they are not worried about who's coming out next to bat, as it could be a full batter who could come out to bat."
"So, you will see a lot of cameos like performances which is taking teams through because this is the impact of the impact player rule. In a sense, it is a great move as it extends careers of a few players. There is a downside to it as well; your bits-and pieces all-rounders will suddenly go missing from the game."
"A lot of fully-skilled players will be there and if you are to be an all-rounder, one has to be a proper all-rounder to be able to fit into the game. For instance, someone like a Ben Stokes is finding it hard to get a place in the eleven. So, one has to understand the impact it has brought on the IPL. I am not surprised that this is happening, but I think one can see it be more refined if it continues to stay in the IPL," said Uthappa, an IPL expert for JioCinema, in a select virtual media interaction.
One thing which has continued with Chennai in IPL 2023 has been forgotten or experienced players like Rahane and Dube thriving with the bat. Uthappa, whose cameo of 31 off 15 balls played a crucial hand in Chennai winning IPL 2021 title, elaborated on the intricacies of the team environment in the franchise which brings the best out of experienced cricketers.
"What happens when you join the CSK franchise is, there is a lot of clarity. They do a lot of simple things very, very well. Once a player comes into the team, the first thing everybody in the support staff and not just MS (Dhoni) does is, they have a conversation with the player, define the role expressively to the player and they make them understand what their role is going to be and keep an open line of communication with them at all times."
"When you do that to a player, especially to an experienced player, who wants an open line of communication to the heads of the team, and clarity of their role - the minute you do that, most of the players become happy. They then know how to work from there to give their best, because every player wants to put their best foot forward and put great performances for his/her team."
"When communication is done and clarity is defined to the player, it makes a lot more simpler. When there is a sense of security within a group, it's human nature that with a sense of security, the focus is on the performance. But when there's no security and one is deeply insecure within a group, then your focus is always on survival. When you work from a mode of survival, you cannot focus on performances and it goes towards surviving within that group."
"But when you work from a place of being very secure, you work on thriving, performing and being the best of what you are capable of, which is what CSK brings out of players. They make them feel really secure so that the player can focus on performances, which is why many experienced players start performing well when they go there because they need security, and clarity of role."
The sense of absolute clarity and keeping communication crystal clear has undoubtedly played a part in Dube's resurgence as a designated spin-hitter in the middle overs for Chennai, as seen from hitting 30 sixes, the most by an Indian batter in IPL 2023. Uthappa also pointed out that the left-hander has improved against facing pacers too.
"In a sense, Shivam Dube has worked a lot on his game. He's worked hard on his game and fitness. You can see the effort when it comes to him, as compared to last year's season, is a lot. There were some glaring issues with him in facing fast-bowlers. You can see that improvement happening from the beginning of the season - he's not backing away to the fast-bowlers anymore."
"He's holding his position and is even coming inside the line of the ball in hook and pull shots, which takes a lot of courage from him. He's performing the role CSK has asked of him. He's been a great player of spin bowling and is a massive six-hitter. The fact that he's got the backing of the franchise, MS Dhoni, support staff, has given him oodles of confidence as well."
"So, he's riding on that high and it's a trick which a lot of franchises can potentially use. You can turn those players from good to great if you use what CSK are doing for almost a decade and a half now," he concluded.
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