IPL 2022: Can Robin Uthappa keep up his brilliance? Why all eyes will be on Ravi Bishnoi? Burning questions from LSG vs CSK clash

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IPL 2022: Can Robin Uthappa keep up his brilliance? Why all eyes will be on Ravi Bishnoi? Burning questions from LSG vs CSK clash
© Provided by Firstpost IPL 2022: Can Robin Uthappa keep up his brilliance? Why all eyes will be on Ravi Bishnoi? Burning questions from LSG vs CSK clash

Another spectacular run-chase in the 15th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) saw Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) beat defending champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) by chasing down 211 with some interesting contributions from the batting department. In a game that saw the momentum swing from CSK to LSG in the second essay, there were several interesting decisions made. Here we raise some burning questions from the clash.

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Can Robin Uthappa more than fill in for Faf du Plessis?

Since the start of 2020, among batters to play 50 balls at least in the powerplay, only one batter has an average of over 50 and a strike-rate of over 140 in the powerplay overs: Robin Uthappa. In a star-studded batting line-up, Uthappa had often gone under the radar in the last couple of years, but with Faf du Plessis no longer with CSK, Uthappa could well be the man to fill his shoes.

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CSK’s decision to swap Moeen Ali in for Devon Conway also suggests that they trust in Uthappa at the top of the order, and there’s no reason not to. He is the perfect foil for someone like Ruturaj Gaikwad. Since the move to CSK in 2021, Uthappa has struck at a rate of 151.2 against pace bowlers while averaging 65 with the bat. Against the spinners, he goes at 137.0, but the average drops to 15.8. Faf du Plessis’ strength also remained against pace and the success of CSK’s opening pair was built on how well he complemented Gaikwad’s skillset.

This is similar to Uthappa-Gaikwad too. While Uthappa starts off brilliantly in the powerplay as evidenced by his strike-rate of over 160 since 2021 in this phase, Gaikwad prefers to bide his time. Uthappa’s average also suggests he does not get out too often in the powerplay, thereby enabling Gaikwad to play himself in and bat deep.

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Uthappa has a weakness against leg-spinners, having been dismissed seven times by them in 41 balls since 2020. Gaikwad offers shield to that if at all the opposition decide to throw a leggie early in the innings — he strikes at a rate of over 130 against them. Overall, on paper, the Uthappa-Gaikwad partnership appears very promising, perhaps even more than du Plessis-Gaikwad.

Why CSK aced their move with Shivam Dube in the first innings?

Shivam Dube was pushed up the order to No 4, ahead of Ambati Rayudu after the fall of Moeen Ali’s wicket. While it helped maintain the left-right batting pair at the crease, CSK made the right call to not promote Ravindra Jadeja like they did in the earlier game against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).

Since 2020, Dube has an average of 56 and a strike-rate of 130 against spinners while Jadeja, in this same time frame, averages 35.5 and strikes at a rate of 75.5 against spinners. With Ravi Bishnoi and Deepak Hooda expected to bowl a lot of the middle overs, CSK made the right call to push Dube up the order, especially with Dushmantha Chameera, who can be a middle overs enforcer, already bowling a couple of his overs out. In a bid to dismiss Dube early, LSG persisted with Chameera for an extra over and in turn got just one over of him in the death.

Dube made this count with a brilliant 49 off 30 balls, smashing 25 off 16 balls against spin, while also taking on the LSG quicks with conviction.

Why all eyes will be on Ravi Bishnoi this year?

Ravi Bishnoi had a fancied T20I debut for India in Kolkata in February, taking 2/17 in his four overs against West Indies and winning the Player of the Match award. The rookie leg-spinner has made all the right noise in this format since the beginning. With the T20 World Cup approaching and India’s frontline spinning option still a question mark, all eyes will be on Bishnoi.

He showed why he can excel under pressure on Thursday when he produced a brilliant spell of 4-0-24-2 even as three of his other mates, including both spinners, went at a rate of over 12 runs per over. While each of LSG’s other bowlers went at over nine runs per over, Bishnoi’s economy rate of 6.0 was a tad higher than what it should have been. A misfield and an outside edge that resulted in fours made a dent in Bishnoi’s spotless spell.

Bishnoi was also the toast of his previous franchise Punjab Kings last year, producing remarkable performances in the middle overs with the ball. His ability to consistently nail the googly makes him a potent threat against left and right-handers and it could well prove to be the difference between him and the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Varun Chakravarthy and Rahul Chahar as India sit down to identify their lead spinner for the big tournament.

Do CSK see Dwaine Pretorius as the understudy to Dwayne Bravo?

Something about Dwaine Pretorius screams CSK. It could be that his uncanny military medium pace and big-hitting abilities are similar to those of two other South African all-rounders that have played for CSK — Chris Morris and Albie Morkel — or it could be that his ability to bowl slower balls in the death brings a faint memory of Dwayne Bravo.

This is Pretorius’ first overseas franchise league season, and at 33, the fact that he hasn’t played in any of the other leagues is least surprising given his ordinary T20 record. What possibly made CSK interested in him could well be his death bowling in the recently concluded T20 World Cup in UAE. He finished as the highest wicket-taker in the death overs with eight wickets at an economy rate of 8.8, but more importantly showcased his abilities with the slower ball, cleverly taking the ball out of the batters’ arc in the death overs.

With Bravo unlikely to keep playing for more than a couple of seasons, CSK could well be aiming to groom Pretorius into the role. He had a good night with the ball, taking two for 31, including the scalps of the two LSG openers, and crucially bowled a brilliant 17th over where he went for just nine runs with the required rate soaring.

Are LSG finding a new way to use Evin Lewis?

Lucknow Super Giants could well be unearthing a skill that few saw in Evin Lewis — a middle overs hitter who can bat on till the death overs. While Lewis starting was a result of Marcus Stoinis’ late arrival, LSG will have a conundrum in their hands now after Lewis’ fiery knock last night won Lucknow a tough run chase against CSK.

Lewis has batted only 11 times prior to this outside the opening slot but at LSG with KL Rahul and Quinton de Kock at the top, he was forced into a middle-order role and it worked well for him last night. Going by stats, Lewis has the game to ace the middle overs role — he strikes at a rate of 155.3 against spin and 157.9 against pace in the middle overs in his T20 career.

With LSG needing a left-hander and some experience in the middle-order, Lewis was backed to play the role and it could well continue. When Stoinis returns, he could take the place of Quinton de Kock at the top and Rahul can take the gloves. While de Kock is an impressive T20 opener, his tendency to slow down outside the powerplay, against spin in particular, makes Lewis as a middle-order spin hitter a more enticing prospect. Stoinis, on the other hand, has aced the opening role in T20 cricket before and also complements Rahul, who likes to settle in early, well.

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