The Midas Touch
With Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, RCB and CSK have benefitted immensely over the last eleven editions of IPL. But, the question arises: who among them is the more reliable finisher?
With the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup just over a year away, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has its hands full with finalising the selection, as several worthy cricketers will by vying for a spot in the Indian ODI team, to win cricket's most coveted trophy.
However, a year is long enough for both, the selectors – who will need to analyse their choices and submit the final names of players to be sent to England – and players – who will have to improve their performances and impress the selectors. The 15-member team is unlikely to be announced before the next year. That leaves the selectors with plenty of time to sit on their choices before sealing the final list.
That being said, there will be several names that are most certainly going to make the cut. Among the names that will be picked without a shred of doubt are captain Virat Kohli and his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Very few people question the fact that the Indian skipper is the best batsman in the world right now, across all three formats of the gentleman's game. In one day internationals, in particular, Kohli shines above everyone else. With an average of 58.10 in 208 ODIs and 9,588 runs, Kohli is unarguably the most prolific limited-overs batsman in the game right now.
However intimidating Kohli's numbers may be, there is no denying that MS Dhoni has won games with his bat and gloves for the Men in Blue, day in and day out, for over a decade. A deadly finisher, the likes of whom are rare to find, Dhoni has more than often snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and secured a win for India when it seemed almost impossible. And, if Dhoni was known for something other than his superior ability to finish off crunch games, it was for his superb captaincy and tactical genius.
However, at this time of the year, ODI cricket usually takes a backseat, as the Indian Premier League fever sets in on cricket lovers around the world. The T20 extravaganza is among the most watched sporting events, not only in India but the world over, with cricketers from various nations turning up to play for the 10 franchises. And, as expected, Kohli and Dhoni are the cynosure of all eyes whenever their respective franchises, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings, take centre-stage.
Over the eleven editions of IPL, RCB and CSK have benefitted immensely from the contributions of these two men, as they finish off innings where the target seems barely attainable. However, the question often arises: who between Kohli and Dhoni is the best chaser in IPL history? The question may sound simple, but the answer can't be found by merely looking at the scorecards of the two teams.
CSK, who were crowned IPL champions twice, did not play the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Yet, coming back after a two-season break, they have been resolute in chasing down seemingly impossible targets, thanks to their charismatic captain MS Dhoni. Of the 33 occasions that CSK has managed to successfully chase down a target in the nine editions of IPL that it has played, Dhoni has carried his bat on 11 occasions, guiding his team to victory even when the target was massive. In these 33 games that CSK has won while chasing, Dhoni has also managed to score over 30 on eight different occasions, vital runs for the team whenever they have been chasing.
When similar statistics are compared for Virat Kohli, we see that the Bengaluru-based outfit has won 38 games while chasing, over the eleven seasons they have played. In these 38 games, Kohli has notched up over 30 runs on 17 occasions, more than twice that of Dhoni. Moreover, Kohli has remained not out during his team's wins on 15 occasions, four times more than Dhoni has.
Numerically, Kohli has been a more vital presence in his team's victory during run-chases than Dhoni has been for CSK. Add this to the fact that Kohli is currently the leader in the list of highest run scorers in the history of IPL, and you can see why the 29-year-old Delhi batsman is so highly valued by his franchise. In terms of centuries scored in the IPL, a rare feat considering the limited number of overs available to each side, Kings XI Punjab's Chris Gayle is unequalled; having scored six tons in the 11 consecutive seasons he has played in the T20 tournament. However, Kohli has his sights set on Gayle's record too, as he is just two centuries below and placed second on the list.
Despite all his personal feats, one major achievement continues to evade Kohli: the coveted IPL Champions trophy. Kohli has been an indispensable part of the Bengaluru outfit since the tournament's inception in 2008. And, since he took over the captaincy of RCB in 2014, his team has displayed commendable performances over the last five seasons, even finishing runners-up in the 2016 edition of the tournament. However, the IPL winner's podium is yet to be marked by Kohli's footprints. And, perhaps that is where Dhoni has shown his mettle.
Having led Chennai since the team's inception, Dhoni has guided his team to the winner's podium on two successive occasions, in 2010 and 2011. Not only have Chennai been champions twice, they have also finished as runners-up five times; despite not having played two editions of the tournament.
This can be attributed to the core strength of CSK remaining stable over almost a decade. With players like Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Murali Vijay, Dhoni has with him experienced and talented batsmen, who regularly chip in with more than useful contributions. CSK, has also, over the years, often had the most potent spin bowling line-up, with Jadeja troubling the opponents with his deadly accuracy and left-arm spin.
So far, the 2018 season of IPL has proven to be a more than a happy comeback for CSK, as they seem unstoppable on their way to qualifying to another playoff spot. RCB, however, have a lot to accomplish, as they are, for now, struggling at the sixth spot. But, as long as they have India's most prolific batsman on their side, RCB can still keep their hopes up.
(Sridhar Venkatesh is Senior Sub-Editor, Millennium Post)