In previous seasons, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have had a clear stranglehold on Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) as illustrated by a 15-8 head-to-head record. The three-time IPL champions have seemingly also held a psychological edge in these encounters against a team yet to win the title. In Dubai on Saturday, however, it will be MS Dhoni’s boys who will be under more pressure even as Virat Kohli’s RCB – who have three wins and two losses – look to find some consistency in their campaign.
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CSK are in a desperate situation after losing four of their first six matches. Their defeat to KKR on Wednesday will rankle, especially after the bowlers did well to restrict Kolkata to 167 and the top-order provided a solid foundation to the run-chase.
But Dhoni’s personal struggle with the bat, coupled with Kedar Jadhav’s glaring inefficiency, hurt Chennai badly in the end.
“We are disappointed (that) we let it slip. We should have put the game to bed with the experience we have got,” CSK coach Stephen Fleming said after that match.
As the tournament approaches its halfway stage, CSK simply have very little room for error from hereon as the battle for the playoffs intensifies.

RCB, meanwhile, have blown hot and cold yet again.
They have suffered a couple of thumping losses so far but also shown signs of improvement under a revamped coaching set-up. Although Kohli did not have a great start to the tournament with the bat, the last two matches have seen him spend considerable time at the crease and should hold him in good stead going forward.
AB de Villiers, of course, continues to be the lynchpin, but it is the form of young Devdutt Padikkal that has been a welcome change for RCB. Too often in the past, they have been too dependent on Kohli and ABD. With Padikkal coming to the party this season at the top of the order, the pressure on the two stalwarts has been relieved to a certain extent.

The main concern of RCB remains the bowling department. With the exception of leggie Yuzvendra Chahal, the RCB bowling continues to be susceptible to leaking a lot of runs. The likely return of all-rounder Chris Morris, who has not yet played this season due to injury, should aid the RCB outfit in this regard and also give them a better balance.
Perhaps, Kohli and his bowling unit can take confidence from the fact that the CSK batsmen have themselves been struggling. While CSK’s opening partnership has clicked over the last couple of games with Shane Watson being back among the runs alongside an in-form Faf du Plessis, there are some concerns over the CSK middle-order.

Jadhav’s lack of runs obviously has been worrisome and could see him being dropped, but Dhoni will be equally concerned with his own form.
The 39-year-old admitted last week that he is not yet playing as fluently as he would want. He will hope that the game against RCB – an opponent against whom he has played some memorable innings in the past – helps him find his fluency.
CSK need Dhoni at his best more than ever.



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