Dhoni’s Debatable Theory: 7.30 PM Start Gives Extra Edge To Team Fielding 1st In IPL

Chennai Super Kings (CSK) failed to qualify for the IPL play-offs for the first time in the tournament’s history in 2020, finishing second from bottom after losing 8 out of 14 matches.

This season, they got off to a losing start on Saturday night as Delhi Capitals handed them a 7-wicket thrashing.

Doesn’t augur well for one of the most successful teams in IPL, having featured in 8 of the 13 finals and winning the coveted trophy 3 times.

And when one hears Mahendra Singh Dhoni say that his team was disadvantaged by a 7.30 pm start, you begin to wonder whether the ageing CSK skipper is keeping excuses ready.

“7.30 start means the opposition will have at least half an hour when there will be very little amount of dew on the field… which means it will not come on as nicely as it will in the second innings. So you have to score those 15-20 extra runs to make it even,” Dhoni said during the post-match interview.

There is no doubt that dew is an important factor in night games.

The moisture on the surface makes the ball damp and bowlers find it difficult to grip it. Also, the onset of dew ensures that the pitch doesn’t crumble or get slower in the latter part of the game, making life easier for the batsmen.

Most captains opt to field first on winning the toss in evening IPL matches, keeping in mind the dew factor. That’s a proven theory.

But is there merit in Dhoni’s claim that a 7.30 pm start makes it even more difficult for the team batting first?

IPL matches used to start at 8 pm. The tournament’s Governing Council brought it forward to 7.30 pm, from the play-off stage in the 2019 edition, and has stuck to that timing since then.

If Dhoni is to be believed, the dew settles on the grounds exactly at 8 pm — not a minute earlier, not at 7.30 — and hence bowlers get that extra assistance during that half an hour. Such a generalisation sounds misplaced as there are several inter-linked factors, like temperature, geographical location, etc.

Dhoni’s observation stemmed from the fact that CSK lost both their openers within the first 3 overs against Delhi Capitals and managed a modest 33/2 at the end of power play overs. Teams usually aim to score around 50-60 runs in the first 6 overs, when field restrictions are in place. If the openers had not been dismissed early, CSK might have been better placed at 8 pm, and Dhoni wouldn’t have got a chance to complain about the ‘early’ start.

When the 7.30 pm start was introduced during the play-off stage two years ago, CSK featured in three out of four matches. Dhoni’s yellow brigade fielded first in two of those games, losing the final against Mumbai Indians after beating Delhi Capitals in Qualifier 2. Dhoni hadn’t made a mention of the early start then, or during the 2020 edition either.

The 2021 season is just two matches old, so Dhoni’s ‘theory’ can’t be dismissed straightaway. But the chances are that sooner than later, teams with more explosive openers than CSK will go all guns blazing even at 7.30 pm.

Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan showed their firepower while chasing down CSK’s total yesterday. Just wait for the day when Delhi Capitals get to bat first.


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