“Well, one could say it’s tougher for Chennai Super Kings. We have not lost in 12 matches here,” shot back Ashok Menaria, when asked whether playing a fellow Indian team in the first semifinal of the Champions League Twenty20 was a more difficult challenge.
Such is the confidence imbued within the Rajasthan Royals camp that, despite the lack of star power, it hardly fears any side. Not even the most successful Indian franchise.
Success on the home turf has engendered an aura around Rahul Dravid’s men. RR is the proverbial lion in its den.
“We have played on quick, green wickets here since IPL-VI. Even our practice wickets are the same. So, our batsmen are used to these wickets more than anybody else. None of the other franchises are exposed to such conditions regularly. That’s a major factor behind our run,” claimed Menaria, with swelling pride.
But if one had to choose a team to beard the lion, the likely choice would be Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s CSK. The franchise has achieved dizzying levels of success in the IPL under its proactive skipper. Though CSK has reached the CLT20 semifinals for only the second time, it went on to win the trophy when it was in the last four in 2010.
However, the defeat to Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday has hurt Dhoni’s men in more ways than one. In addition to suffering one of its heaviest losses ever, CSK was pushed to the second spot in Group B.
If the two-time IPL champion had lessened the margin of defeat, it would have remained in Delhi for its semifinal and — potentially — the final.
However, CSK now finds itself in the unenviable position of playing at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium. Dhoni’s men were ground into submission by Shane Watson on their last visit here, losing by five wickets with 17 balls to spare.
When pushed against the wall, CSK’s plans seem too rigid; a weakness well-exploited by T&T. Dhoni would do well to realise that RR’s flexibility has already hurt many teams.
At the pre-match press conference, Menaria, who is generally slated to bat at number seven, said that Rahul Dravid asks him to pad up early in order to be ready to bat at a higher position. The 22-year-old’s statement revealed much about the fluidity of RR’s plans.
Yet, despite the failure against T&T, CSK’s batting unit holds the edge over its opponent on a track more conducive to run-scoring. But will RR’s aura at home prove too much?