MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli expressed dissatisfaction with the MA Chidambaram Stadium pitch on which defending champions and hosts Chennai Super Kings won the IPL 2019 opener in a low-scoring contest. Despite the seven-wicket win, Dhoni said the pitch was “too slow” while Kohli said he did not enjoy what was a “scrappy start” to the IPL on a surface which was a weary, bald turner. Incidentally, the pitch will also host the tournament final, which is likely to be played on May 12 in Chennai.
“I never expected the wicket to play how it actually played,” Dhoni told Sanjay Manjrekar during the post-match presentation. “It was too slow.” When asked by Manjrekar if he was unhappy with the surface, Dhoni said it needed to be better. “Definitely it needs to be a lot better than where it is right now. Even with the dew, it was still turning a bit. It needs to be (more) high scoring. Something like 140-150 is something you are looking at; 80, 90, 100 or 120 is very low scoring. If you saw how the wicket played and if you have genuine spinners in your (bowling) attack it will be very difficult to score runs. So the wicket needs to get much better than where how it is now.”
Of the 13 wickets to fall in the match, ten were bagged by the spinners. Virtually every batsman was beaten by the gripping and slow surface, which also had good bounce.
While Kohli didn’t offer excuses for the defeat, he didn’t hide his disappointment with the track, saying it wasn’t the right sort for T20 cricket. “The good thing is a game like this out of the way rather than having it at a very important stage in the tournament,” Kohli told Ian Bishop after the match. “No one thought the wicket’s going to play the way it played. We thought somewhere 140-150 would be an ideal score because of the dew factor later on. But I don’t think either of the team would have enjoyed that kind of a pitch, especially in T20 cricket where guys want to get runs and put the runs on the board or chase scores down.
“If that was 100-110 run game would’ve been very close. It was a scrappy sort of a start to the league. That is what you get when you have a wicket like that. I don’t think either team had control over it. The pitch was under the covers for four days.”
Even Ambati Rayudu, whose watchful 28 (the second-highest score on the day) guided the Super Kings to victory, was surprised by the nature of the pitch, which he described to Bishop as more suited to a first-class match. “Definitely a tough wicket. It was pretty easy in the end, but if they had another 40-50 runs it would have been really tough. It was more like playing in a four-day game because the wicket was such.”
Dhoni said the uncertainty over how the surface would behave – even though Super Kings had played a practice match on it leading into the IPL opener – was the main reason he chose to bowl after winning the toss. The Super Kings captain said the pitch reminded him of the re-laid surfaces at the venue during the 2011 Champions League T20, where the average score hovered below the 150-run mark. Super Kings had won the IPL that year but failed to make the knockouts in the CLT20. “It just reminded me of the 2011 Champions League,” Dhoni said. “We had won IPL. We had a very good season. We came back. The wicket got re-laid and all of a sudden we found it very difficult. If the wicket stays like this, it will be difficult for us also.
“We were not really sure about the wicket. We played a practice game on the same wicket and it wasn’t turning so much. It was a slightly high-scoring game. Yes, practice game, there is a tendency normally you will score 30 runs more than what you will in a proper game.”
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