MS Dhoni Belts it in the Nets, CSK Prepare for Trial by Spin at Humid Chepauk

Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni (Photo: CSK / Twitter)

On a humid evening, CSK skipper MS Dhoni works on his bat speed with the tennis ball and fine-tunes the power game with extended session vs spinners.

Around 7 pm on Monday, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) skipper MS Dhoni walked out to the field in his batting gear for a light drill before an extended open net session on the square. Dressed in a training tank top and shorts, Dhoni didn’t have the pads on as a support staff member, with a racquet in his hand, repeatedly hurled tennis balls towards the right-hander. The idea was to ignite the bat speed before the long hit and also work on the power game against the hard lengths. The 41-year-old deposited plenty in the stands during the drill which lasted approximately 20 minutes and then took a hydration break before putting the pads on.

The humidity level in the evening flirted with the 80-mark and all the CSK batters had the big towels out to constantly wipe their sweating forearms. The odd spell of gentle breeze did bring some respite but overall it was a very humid evening to train. The weather forecast doesn’t look promising as far as humidity level on Tuesday is concerned and the reading is likely to be in the higher 70s.

Wrist on their mind

Apart from humidity, one certainty during CSK’s Qualifier 1 clash will be the wrist spin in the GT camp. Both Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmad managed to apply the choke on RCB at the Chinnaswamy last evening and together they conceded 63 runs and picked three wickets, including the prized scalps of Faf Du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell, during the eight overs they bowled. Wary of the challenge in conditions that will offer purchase, all CSK batters went hard against wrist spinners in the nets.

One was leggie Prashant Solanki and the other was left-arm spinner Ajay Mandal from Chhattisgarh. Mandal bowled both conventional left-arm off-spin and mixed it up with some wrist work. His other one wasn’t a typical chinaman release but the little variation in the grip and that push from the wrist produced the one which goes away from the right-hander. The duo bowled non-stop to the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Shivam Dube, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, and Dhoni.

Dhoni stood behind Dube when the left-hander was clearing the ropes with ease and patiently waited for his turn to bat. When Dube was done, Dhoni instructed the side arms to bowl at him first and then signalled for the wrist spinners. CSK batting coach Mike Hussey was one of the side-arms and bowling coach Dwayne Bravo too gently rolled his arm over. The West Indian bowled a little spell and was hit for two big sixes by the CSK skipper before the two exchanged smiles and then Bravo passed the duties to the spinners.

Heat from Captain Cool

There was a lot of heat from Captain Cool’s willow as he kept hitting them long and big. The arc between mid-wicket and straight was the preferred area vs spin and meaty slogs were unfurled against the side-arms. He rotated his session with Jadeja, who too was in a destructive mood, and worked on expanding his range against spin.

Initially in the session, Jadeja was struggling to make good connections but once he got the hang of the surface, the sweet sound off the willow echoed at Chepauk. Before Jadeja, Rahane had a decent hit and was timing the spinners exquisitely. The elegant right-hander often used his feet to get to the pitch of the ball and favoured the lofty drives, which did travel the distance, over the mid-wicket slogs and sweeps.

Spin was the order of the day and the fixture between CSK and GT, two sides with quality spinners, promises to be no different. While CSK’s regular bowlers weren’t spotted near the practice square, Mitchell Santner bowled a long spell with the new ball to help CSK batters prepare for the spin challenge on Tuesday.

CSK 0-3 GT

CSK are yet to beat Gujarat Titans during their three meetings so far and will have their task cut out against a very formidable unit, which topped the group stage with 10 wins from 14 games and has been relentless in the tournament so far. Even in the high-scoring fixture against RCB on Sunday, the Hardik Pandya-led unit didn’t release the foot off the gas and, riding high on Shubman Gill’s second hundred in as many games, gunned down the 198-run target in just 19.1 overs.

“The calmness which the boys had was terrific. We wanted to keep the momentum going. We have ticked a lot of boxes,” Hardik had said after the win over RCB.

Both Hardik and Dhoni are expected to showcase a similar level of calmness when they take the field in the high-pressure game but Chepauk will be way different from the quiet venue it was on the eve of the match. The yellow and blue stands will be littered with yellow jerseys, mostly No.7, and the roar of the spectators will create an electric atmosphere. In some hours, IPL 2023 will get its first finalist and it remains to be seen whether it would be CSK securing their 10th final berth or Gujarat Titans doing it for 2nd time on the trot.

To tackle the heat and humidity, the towels will be out and drinks boys will remain on their toes but no matter who does what, all eyes will be glued to Dhoni who could well be playing his last game at Chepauk THIS YEAR.

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