IPL 2022: Should Dhoni bat up the order? Are CSK getting best out of Dube? Burning questions from CSK vs PBKS clash

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IPL 2022: Should Dhoni bat up the order? Are CSK getting best out of Dube? Burning questions from CSK vs PBKS clash
© Provided by Firstpost IPL 2022: Should Dhoni bat up the order? Are CSK getting best out of Dube? Burning questions from CSK vs PBKS clash

Punjab Kings thumped Chennai Super Kings after a sensational powerplay with bat and ball saw them dominate the entire contest. There were several contentious calls in the game that warrant a deeper discussion and here we ask a few burning questions from the contest.

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Why do Punjab Kings need one of their top four batters to bat deep?

Punjab Kings arguably have the best batting lineup in IPL 2022 with incredible power hitters in the lower middle-order, but to put up sizeable totals consistently, they might just want their top four to bat deeper, something that hasn’t been done so far.

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When it comes to batting average of batters at No. 5 or below in this first couple of weeks in IPL 2022, Punjab Kings’ bottom end averages 15.27 with the bat. To top that off, they have a strike rate of 110.53, the second worst among the 10 teams.

While the sample size is low, fact remains that Punjab Kings have some good power hitters down the order, but do not really bank on any of them to last long enough to make a huge impact. This would mean multiplying the value of the lower order hitters by having one of the top four batters bat deep, something the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Liam Livingstone should aim to do.

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How do Punjab Kings solve the balance question?

Jonny Bairstow’s return poses a conundrum for Punjab Kings. Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Liam Livingstone or Odean Smith will have to make way for Bairstow to return and in all likelihood he will walk into a middle-order spot rather than a top-order one given that Punjab have Dhawan and Mayank there.

Benching Odean would significantly reduce their finishing prowess even if they do push Liam Livingstone down the order. It’d also leave Livingstone to bowl a bit alongside an Indian all-rounder, possibly Rishi Dhawan, which in turn would mean benching Jitesh Sharma, who showed impeccable intent with the bat in the middle overs. Bhanuka Rajapaksa, on the other hand, is the only left-hander in the entire middle-order, and leaving him out could lead to teams exploiting the middle overs with good match up bowlers.

Punjab Kings’ best bet might lie in leaving Livingstone to do the major hitting – he has a strike-rate of 148 and average of 40 in the powerplay in the last four years in T20s – from No.3 and using the Bairstow – Rajapaksa pair to tackle spinners. While Rajapaksa scores at over 130 against spinners in his T20 career, Bairstow strikes at 143.3 against spin in the middle overs specifically.

With Shahrukh to do the finish job, Punjab Kings have a better balanced line-up if they omit Odean, whose bowling returns have anyway been mediocre. Rishi Dhawan and Livingstone can use up the overs of the fifth bowler and give better balance to the line-up.

Should we be worried by Ruturaj Gaikwad’s slow starts?

It’s funny how Ruturaj Gaikwad’s three IPL seasons are all in sync at this stage. In his debut season, Gaikwad made 0, 5 and 0 to kickstart his IPL career. He, however, went on to finish the season with a hat-trick of fifties, later crediting MS Dhoni’s confidence in him as the reason behind the changeover.

“Dhoni walked up to me and asked me if I was under pressure. He said, ‘We don’t want to pressurise you, but we have expectations from you. All I want to tell you is you are going to play the next three games without any doubt, whether you score a run or not. Try and enjoy these games and not think about performance,” Gaikwad told Sportstar.

In 2021, Gaikwad began slow again, scoring 5, 5 and 10 in the first three matches before spectacularly turning it around to finish as the Orange Cap holder with more than 600 runs in the season. In IPL 2022 so far, Gaikwad has two runs in three matches and seems to be struggling with outside off-stump good length balls, often not moving his feet much and going at deliveries with hard hands. But who is to say he won’t turn it around from here? He has done that before, and could well do it again.

Should MS Dhoni bat up the order?

Make no mistake, this has always been a burning question; be it during his lengthy ODI career, his early CSK days or the infamous 2019 ODI World Cup semi-final. But now, more than ever, this might actually be the only way Chennai Super Kings can stop these top-order collapses.

In two of the first three matches they have played this season, CSK have suffered top-order collapses. Against Kolkata Knight Riders in the season opener they were 52/4 in the ninth over while here, having struggled to cope with rookie Vaibhav Arora’s new ball spell, they were 23/4 with no sight yet of MS Dhoni.

By the time Dhoni came in, CSK were down and out, and more importantly, with Dhoni taking his time to settle in, the required run rate climbed, adding pressure onto Shivam Dube and the ones to follow. The best way to mitigate this damage is to use Dhoni early in the rebuilding phase so that the balls wasted early on help in stopping the fall of wickets. A well-set Dhoni, or one batting in the death, as we saw earlier this season, is destructive and can go big. He has only ever faced 67 balls in the powerplay, and strikes at less than 80 in that phase, but it wouldn’t be the worst move to push Dhoni up if there’s an early collapse.

Was Shivam Dube not used well at previous franchises?

Before 2022, Shivam Dube played for Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals and never quite made the kind of impact he was expected to make. It’s not coincidence that Dube’s best knock in the IPL prior to this season came against CSK, a team that did not have high pace quicks or top quality spinners who could turn the ball away from the left-hander.

Dube’s numbers reflect that he thrives against spin and struggles against pace – an average of 18 against pace and more than 30 against spin before his mad innings against Punjab Kings on Sunday. With Dube, teams have struggled to use him in the right role in their T20 setup. While RCB mostly had him as a finisher, batting at No.6 or No.7 where he had to face quality, high pace quicks – which is not his strength – RR had him at No.4 consistently, albeit with very little firepower lower down the order. This meant Dube had to take lesser risks in the middle overs and look to bat deeper at which point he almost always got off to starts before facing good quicks against whom he had little answers.

CSK, though, have hit the nail on the head with Dube’s role in the side, and there’s reason to believe it isn’t accidental. In the second game against Lucknow Super Giants, he was promoted up to No.4 after the second wicket fell in the 11th over. That’s probably a tad late for him and in the other two matches, his entry was delayed until he went on to bat against spin straightaway. With scores of 49 (30) and 57 (30), Dube is quickly turning opinions around him this year.

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