The 35th match of the IPL 2021 tournament between the blockbuster teams, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings, could all be about match-ups. Here, we take a look at a key game plan that could play a role in the 35th game of IPL 2021 – RCB vs CSK
Note: All stats and facts are updated till 21 September 2021.
CSK’s superb show against spinners:
CSK have been in terrific form in this season so far. Winning six out of eight matches, the table-toppers CSK are the only side with a net run-rate of more than one. One of the reasons behind their success is obviously their batting performance. Enough has been written on the improved returns of CSK’s batting unit, particularly in the middle-overs.
And, continuing their good show, CSK’s spin-hitters will pose a huge challenge against RCB – in the first match of this leg at Sharjah. Even though the pitches in Sharjah got slow towards the end of the season in 2020, they were pretty flat at the start of the season. In the first four matches at this venue last season, the match (run) aggregates were: 416, 449, 438 and 382. In all of those four games, spinners conceded runs at an economy of 9.5 RPO, including over 10. 5 in three matches.
CSK have been comfortably the best batting side against spinners in the middle overs this season. They have produced the most balanced returns against spin bowling among all teams. And, their threat for the opposing sides is likely to only increase on flat wickets.
What can RCB do?
The major threats for RCB on a flat wicket are Raina and Moeen for a number of reasons. With roles being clearly defined, they will certainly take on RCB’s spinners, and the latter must be ready with solid plans.
Being their lead pacer, Mohammed Siraj will bowl two overs in the powerplay and two in the death overs. So, unless CSK collapse, Siraj is unlikely to get enough balls to test the duo with his sharp short balls and bouncers. RCB don’t have Washington Sundar (or any other full time off-spinner) anymore who could’ve potentially restricted them.
Harshal Patel’s off-cutters might have been useful against the southpaw duo on slow pitches but they are unlikely to work on flat surfaces. Navdeep Saini has seldom looked in a good rhythm for a while now, and will understandably sit out. So, the first thing RCB need to do is to bring in Dushmantha Chameera for Kyle Jamieson. With no significant ball movement on true batting surfaces, Jamieson’s bowling might be like sweet candies for CSK batsmen.
Chameera, if he plays, also adds value against the likes of Gaikwad, Rayudu, Dhoni and Jadeja - at least more than Jamieson does.
Chahal’s recent returns is indeed a problem. Averaging over 30 against southpaws in T20s since 2019, the leg-spinner has conceded runs at 7.84. Talking about Wanindu Hasaranga, he averages 29 with an economy of 8.17 against LHBs in T20Is since 2019.
Since 2020 in the IPL, Moeen Ali has been dismissed thrice while facing just 24 googlies. But, Chahal doesn’t bowl enough googlies - just 21.3% of his deliveries against LHBs since 2020 have been googlies. Let’s compare this with other spinners. Well, Rashid Khan is a different beast, Chakravarthy is a mystery spinner dependent on his variations and the likes of Bishnoi, Gopal & M. Ashwin majorly rely on googlies. Rahul Chahar’s percentage of googlies vs lefties is 44.1%, more than double of Chahal’s.
Also, Chahal hasn’t picked up any wicket with a googly against LHBs since 2020, the only one (not) to do so among bowlers who’ve bowled at least 30 googlies against LHBs in this duration. Hasaranga, if he isn’t dropped, should try to bowl with better control than what he showed on his IPL debut. His googly is quite good, it’s about execution during the game.
Gaikwad has been dismissed twice against googlies and leg-spinning deliveries in just 25 and 47 balls respectively. Overall he averages 26 with a strike rate of 118.2 against leg-spinners in his IPL career. But, he is still a good player of spin. Ideally, Siraj should outfox Gaikwad in the powerplay itself. But, if he doesn't, floating up the ball in Sharjah should be an absolute no-no for RCB spinners (yes, mainly Chahal).
Although Faf du Plessis’ average of over 60 against leg-spinners in all T20s since 2019 is high, his strike rate of 117 is far from impressive.
Even though Rayudu has played a few fine cameos this season, his numbers against leg-spinners are substandard since 2020. Since 2020, he averages 33.5 against leg-spinning balls with a strike rate of 113.6. Against googlies, Rayudu has scored just 16 off 20 balls, without being dismissed though.
However, the biggest challenge for RCB will be a good batting deck and short boundaries. When the ball doesn’t pose any major threat due to lack of turn or movement, the CSK batsmen can hit the ball for long distances. RCB spinners should bowl flat, fast and on back-of-length to not allow batsmen to score quickly. Defensive bowling should definitely be the priority in a high-scoring game (expectedly).