Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming admitted that the defending champions are being tested for the first time in the history of IPL. MiD DAY analyses their performance in the tournament so far.
April 4: vs Mumbai Indians:
Chennai's IPL-V campaign began on a dreadful note as they were bowled out for just 112. Mumbai Indians made light work of the target with IPL debutant Richard Levi scoring a quick fire half century to help the visitors topple the reigning champions.
What went wrong? Ravindra Jadeja's first over in CSK's colours went for 16. Doug Bollinger, the pace spearhead, was hammered for 34 runs inside four overs. Though R Ashwin conceded only 20 runs from his four overs, the off-spinner failed to extract the turn he usually does from the Chepauk surface. These were first signs of things to follow for MS Dhoni's men.
April 10: vs Delhi Daredevils:
Chennai were disappointing with the bat for the second time in three games as Delhi Daredevils restricted them to their second-lowest total in the IPL. CSK could manage only 110 for eight from 20 overs. Delhi chased down the 111-run target in just 13.2 overs. Again, Doug Bollinger and R Ashwin - CSK's premier bowlers - leaked runs.
What went wrong? Some confused running meant three of the first four Super Kings batsmen ran themselves out. Off the first ball of the game, Murali Vijay responded too eagerly to a call for a single from Faf du Plessis only to be run out. Such chaos continued as Suresh Raina went too far down the pitch in search of a tight single but could not make it back in time; S Badrinath was to meet similar fate a couple of overs later.
April 14: vs Pune Warriors:
Despite scoring a reasonable 155 for five, and dismissing Pune Warriors India batsmen Robin Uthappa and Sourav Ganguly cheaply, Chennai Super Kings couldn't prevent another defeat at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium. Chennai's bowlers had no answer to big Kiwi Jesse Ryder - who remained unbeaten on 73 to steer Pune past the line with four balls to spare. It came down to 34 required off the final three overs, in which Ryder only needed to take three singles, as Steven Smith's big hits took care of the rest. Chennai's Sri Lankan recruit Nuwan Kulasekara, who replaced out-of-form Doug Bollinger, leaked 38 runs from his four-over spell.
What went wrong? Murali Vijay's poor run in IPL-V continued as the opener departed after contributing just eight runs to the 43-run opening stand with Faf du Plessis. Vijay, who top-scored for CSK during last year's IPL final against Bangalore, was dropped after this game and hasn't returned to the XI.
April 28: vs Kings XI Punjab:
Chennaidid well to restrict Punjab from 127-2 to 156-8. In pursuit of 157, the defending champions were comfortably placed as openers Faf du Plessis and S Badrinath posted a 47-run stand. However, Azhar Mahmood dismissed both quickly. The double blow slowed down CSK's scoring-rate and added pressure on out-of-form batsmen - Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha and MS Dhoni. Raina was stumped off Piyush Chawla, Saha was castled by David Hussey, and Dhoni was run out after scoring just one run. Still, Chennai had two power-hitters, Dwayne Bravo and Albie Morkel, in the middle after 15 overs, and the target was 58 runs away, certainly not beyond their reach. However, Chawla, Mahmood & Co bowled and fielded splendidly to conquer Chennai in their own backyard.
What went wrong? Chennai's persisting middle-order woes ruined them as they lost five wickets for just 38 runs and eventually lost by seven runs. Raina took 17 balls to score just 15 runs. In previous seasons, Raina was always the enforcer while the likes of Badrinath and Dhoni anchored the innings. None of that seems to be working for Chennai.
April 30: vs Knight Riders:
Even the arrival of Michael Hussey didn't matter as Kolkata Knight Riders won easily - to establish that Chepauk was no longer a fortress for the reigning champions. After their bowlers, led by Jacques Kallis, restricted CSK to 139, the KKR batsmen, with Gautam Gambhir leading from the front, chased down the score with five wickets to spare. Though the game went in to the last over, the Knight Riders were always in control. After the game, coach Stephen Fleming conceded that though his batsmen played reasonably well on a sluggish surface, bowling and fielding was a concern.
What went wrong? Super Kings bowlers didn't help their case with a spate of wides, eight of them in all. Extras aside, KKR's batting pair of Gambhir and Kallis were allowed 32 singles.
Champions tamed in IPL 5
# Played: 10
# Won: 4
# Lost: 5 (NR: 1)
Key players fail:
# MS Dhoni: 166 runs from 10 matches (HS: 40, SR: 116)
# Suresh Raina: 197 runs from 10 matches (HS: 44, SR: 120)
# S Badrinath: 147 runs from 10 matches (HS: 57, SR: 105)
# R Ashwin: 5 wickets from 10 matches (Ave: 43, Econ: 6.45)
# Doug Bollinger: 8 wickets from 6 matches (Ave: 20, Econ: 9)
# Murali Vijay: 31 runs from 5 matches (HS: 11, SR: 64)