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Cricket news - Chennai pitch leaves Dhoni, Kohli unimpressed

Both captains were critical of the slow-turner at Chepauk

Following a low-scoring encounter that kickstarted IPL 2019, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli - captains of Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore respectively - came down heavily on the slow nature of the surface, which resulted in only 141 runs being scored in 34.5 overs for the loss of 13 wickets. As a result, despite a comfortable seven-wicket win in the tournament opener, Dhoni said, "The wicket definitely needs to be a lot better."

At the toss, Dhoni elected to field, unsure of how the pitch would play out. Kohli felt there could be dew later and agreed with his counterpart's reading of the conditions and said his team too would have liked to field. However, things got far worse for RCB as they came out to bat. CSK's spin trio profited on a devilish surface and had them bundled out for 70, with only Parthiv Patel managing a double-digit score. However, despite a meagre total, the hosts took 17.4 overs to achieve the target.

CSK, while assembling their squad at the last season's auction, had picked up five top spinners in the world, hoping that they could take advantage of the spin-friendly conditions at their home ground - M Chidambaram Stadium. However, despite the track being in sync with their strategy, Dhoni wasn't too impressed by what was dished out on Saturday (March 23).

"We played a practice match on the same wicket and it was not turning so much," Dhoni said in the post-match presentation. "It was slightly a high scoring match, but usually in practice matches there's a tendency we score 30 runs more than a normal match.

"I never expected the wicket to play how it actually played; it was too slow and it just reminded me of the 2011 Champions League wicket. After the IPL, we came back and we had a really good season, the wicket got relaid and all of a sudden we found it very difficult. I feel if the wicket stays like this, it will be tough for us also. The wicket definitely needs to be a lot better than where it is right now, even with dew it was still spinning big.

"I feel it needs to be high-scoring, even the opposition would have known that it was a slow wicket. Something close to 140-150 is something you are looking at. 80, 90, 100 or 120 is really low-scoring and if you have genuine spinners in your lineup it's very difficult to score runs. I feel the wicket needs to be much better than how it is now. We need to score runs as well, ours is a batting attack where batsmen like to play their shots and you can't control the toss which means that we might have to bat first in matches as well. If the wicket gets slightly better it might be a completely different scenario and the opposition, the kind of spinners they have got it will be difficult to score runs. If you want to be consistently good I don't think this is the wicket that will really suit us."

Kohli too echoed similar thoughts but chose to reflect on his team's poor application instead. "It wasn't easy to bat on, looked a much better surface," he said. "I thought 140-150 would have been an ideal score, especially with dew expected later on. (It was) A scrappy start to the league, but I don't think either team had control over it. The pitch was under the covers for 4 days, but we should have batted better, 110-120 would have been a fighting score."

With T20s increasingly being a bat-dominated game, there was also discussion on whether this kind of pitch was actually better for the game. There was divided opinion amongst members of both teams about this.

"Is it better for the wider aspect of the game? Probably not. It's not probably an even contest. It's fine if there is some spin, it's fine if there is something in it for the bowlers. Equally, there needs to be an element of an opportunity to score as well. It's very difficult to score, even to knock the ball around," felt Vikram Solanki, the batting consultant for Royal Challengers Bangalore.

However, Man of the Match, Harbhajan Singh felt that the pitch was not as bad as it was made out to be. While still advocating that the pitch needed to change to suit the strengths (read batting) of CSK, Harbhajan said, "The wicket was difficult, there was spin and bounce but it was not unplayable. We have been conditioned to watch games where there are high scores. If there's a pitch where 170 is scored, no one will complain. But if there's some spin or seam movement then everyone will have a problem. But no one has a problem when 170 or 180 is scored. People actually forget that a bowler also has a job. And batsmen need these struggles sometimes so that they understand that this competition has to be between bat and ball. They [RCB] played some rash shots too in between. It was not a 70-run wicket, even 120 could have been made with some application. There were some lapses there. When we were batting, because we had only 70 to make, we batted according to what was needed. If we had to make 120, then we could have gone after a few more bowlers."

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