CSK win proves instincts still alive in the age of analysis..

The win of Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2018 is the talking point of the season. The squad with most players in their 30s was consistent throughout the tournament with several match winners. It is not just the win but the manner in which they won which also surprised one and all.

This piece by Siddharth Monga deconstructs the strategies deployed by the Chennai franchise. Their win was more about mental games and human behavior than laptop based data crunching:

Chennai Super Kings’ latest triumph was reinforcement that T20 is still a sport played out in the middle, by humans who react differently to pressure. That when all is said and done, a human being has to rock up and bowl a final over to him or Dwayne Bravo. That at these times it is not enough to know that the wide yorker is the ball to bowl to Dhoni; you have to actually execute it. That when you respect and play out one or two bowlers, you are at the same time letting the others – inexperienced Indian bowlers in the case of the IPL – know that you are coming after them, which brings pressure on them.

The whole campaign of Super Kings was in effect a reminder that while analysis is instructive, it is not set in stone. That the numbers we have for analysis come from what these players do, and not the other way around. Dhoni left alone 25 balls in this IPL, way more than any other batsman. In a format that starting quickly is fast becoming the holy grail, especially for those who bat in the second half of the innings, Dhoni had the fourth-worst strike rate in the first five balls and ninth-worst over the first 10 balls this season. Yet he was just outside the top 10 smart strike rates for the season.

In a chase of over 200 against Kolkata Knight Riders, Dhoni ends up with 25 off 28, slowest innings of 15 balls or more. Super Kings win. In a chase of 198 against Kings XI Punjab, he is 23 off 22. Super Kings come within a blow of winning with Dhoni unbeaten on 79 off 44. In the high-pressure qualifier against Sunrisers Hyderabad, he takes nine balls to get off the mark, scores 9 off 18, and tells his partner Faf du Plessis, who is himself going at a strike rate of 50, to just play out Rashid Khan. Du Plessis wins them the match with time to spare. In the final, against the same opponents, Shane Watson takes 11 balls to score his first run before scoring a match-winning century. These are the times when cameras pan to the dugout for anxious faces. Not with Super Kings because they don’t have anxious faces; they have taken after their captain.

More than analysis, what is important for Dhoni is to realise in that moment what the opposition is trying to achieve and look to deny them. If Bhuvneshwar Kumar is bowling an extra over at the top, Dhoni wants his side to show knowledge that the opposition is desperate for a wicket. If you feel the scoreboard pressure and try a silly shot in this extra over of Bhuvneshwar, that annoys Dhoni more than any slow strike rate. Ride the storm, minimise the damage when things are not going for you, take the game deep, make the opposition close it out. And when your time comes – and it does come – take full toll.

Hmm..

Nice bit of writing.

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