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CSK building up well

Raakesh Natraj

Chennai: CSK's 21-run win over RCB on Saturday was the defending champion's sixth home win in seven matches, a record that makes visiting the M.A. Chidambaram stadium an increasingly hairy prospect for opponents.

The run began, incidentally, against the same opposition when Chennai claimed a five-wicket win against RCB during IPL-III, at a stage when things were looking rather desperate for the men in yellow.

An indifferent start to the season meant each match from then on was a quasi knockout, and it was around this time that Michael Hussey, who had just joined the team, called for Chennai to be made a ‘fortress of sorts'.

KKR (twice), RCB (twice), Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians have been rolled over since, and Hussey was the architect of the latest win with his 56-ball 83.

Regulars

Among the regulars in the team are Chennai-based M. Vijay, S. Badrinath, R. Ashwin and S. Anirudha, who are intimate with the wicket, which coach Stephen Fleming appraised as being notoriously difficult to read.

As for the other mainstays, M.S. Dhoni and S. Raina, the pitch seems to possess just the right amount of pace and bounce to make their brand of power-hitting that much more difficult to stop.

“The pitch is quite unique. It is easy batting against the new ball, but batting from the middle to the late overs is difficult. It is important to adjust and it can be difficult for the visiting to team to do so,” said Hussey during the post-match press conference.

Right balance

The Chennai batting line-up has, in Hussey, Dhoni, Raina and Anirudha, players who can bat anywhere in the order, while the overseas all-rounders, Scott Styris and Albie Morkel, lend the side balance.

“One of our strengths is our ability to be flexible, and cover a lot of bases with our overseas players,” acknowledged Hussey.

While it is hazardous to attempt a task that someone like Fleming has given up on, one of the constants of the pitch at Chepauk seems to be its ability to afford bounce (which at times is spongy) and take turn (on Saturday, it neither gripped nor turned, at least enough to cause alarm); the disclaimers just going on to illustrate the coach's pronouncement.

Chennai, however, seems to have cannily gathered its bowling options to play on exactly these equivocations of the pitch.

Tall pacemen

In Tim Southee, Albie Morkel and Doug Bollinger, who are all over six feet tall, CSK has the pacemen who are intrinsically capable of getting lift, an ability which becomes all the more lethal when the bounce is uneven.

The spin trio of R. Ashwin, S. Jakati and S. Randiv (Muttiah Muralitharan previously) are, firstly, dissimilar, and hence provide the captain with a lot of options, and secondly, have the ability to bowl at any stage of the innings.

Southee, who sent down a series of unplayable yorkers in the win against KKR, and Randiv, who, while looking a more orthodox version of Ashwin, can also send down a deceptive doosra, appear especially crucial buys.

“They (Ashwin, Randiv and Jakati) are all different spinners with different subtleties and different deliveries. The way M.S. (Dhoni) uses the spinners at the right time has been crucial,” said Hussey.

With Bollinger set to return to the side in the near future, it also gives Dhoni the option of swapping the all-round abilities of Morkel with the far more menacing pace of the Australian, a move that will possibly shore up the one chink in the Chennai armour — the indifferent bowling form away from its Chennai stronghold.

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