A day before its departure for the semifinal encounter, the Chennai Super Kings' campaign at home in Chepauk wound down amidst the thunder and drill of heavy machinery, hammers and oxyacetylenetorches.
As the optional practice session progressed under lights, concrete was mangled to rubble and iron scaffolding, the squat achromatic stands torn down to make way for the new pearly-white, angular, drape-adorned structure, in time for the ODI World Cup in 2011. The untouchables of the squad — skipper M.S. Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Doug Bollinger, S. Badrinath and R. Ashwin — decided to take the day off while the rest turned up for practice.
Battling for form and consistency in this edition of the IPL, Matthew Hayden was the first to walk out. Receiving a few knock-downs, Hayden attempted to neutralise the leg-stump line with fine sweeps and sallies down the track — a comment perhaps on the increasing role played by spinners in the powerplay overs.
On the adjacent strip, Murali Vijay and Michael Hussey faced up to the likes of Thilan Thushara, Sudeep Tyagi, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Justin Kemp, Muttiah Muralitharan and Shadab Jakati.
Vijay, fast acquiring a reputation for his clean strikes on the on-side, pulled out two stunning upper cuts that sailed over the third man fence while Hussey went the copybook way, preferring to drive and deflect.
The pacemen worked on hitting specific lengths as Balaji speared the ball full and outside the off stump to Vijay while Hussey was tucked up with deliveries of shortish length that came into his body. Tyagi tried banging the ball in on a few occasions but stuck to bowling length otherwise.
The disproportionate number of bowlers peddling their wares at the nets was a fair indicator of Chennai's relative failings in the department through the course of the tournament.
The time for course correction long gone, one failure in the knockout stages will prove to be its last.