Top Performers: CSK’s pace trio rip apart Mumbai

‘He should not play red ball cricket or even get close to it’ is the great Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s advice for Sri Lanka’s pace sensation Matheesha Pathirana.

Referred to as ‘Baby Malinga’, for his slingy action similar to Lankan great Lasith Malinga, the 20-year pacer registered superb figures of 3/15 to power Chennai Super Kings to a thumping six-wicket against Mumbai Indians in Chennai on Saturday.

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Dhoni rates the young pacer as a genuine match-winner and believes Sri Lanka should nurture him carefully by preserving him for big tournaments like the World Cup, while keeping him away from Test cricket and ODIs.

“I personally think he is not someone who should play a lot of red-ball cricket. I think he shouldn’t even get close to it. Even in white-ball cricket, the 50-overs version he should play as less as possible,” said Dhoni.

Pathirana has become an important weapon with the ball for CSK with his amazing ability to bowl yorkers consistently at the death. This season, already he has picked up 10 wickets from seven games at an economy rate of 7.60 despite bowling most of his overs in the end. In fact, all his 10 wickets have come between the 16th and the 20th overs, during which he has conceded 123 runs in 16.2 overs.

Things are certainly looking quite bright for CSK as far as the bowling is concerned, going into the last few weeks of IPL 2023. With the experienced Deepak Chahar back to full fitness and Tushar Deshpande zooming to the top of the wicket-taking charts with 19 scalps in 11 games, CSK boast of a solid pace attack.

Mumbai’s Deshpande has been the unsung hero for CSK. Bought for his base price of Rs 20 lakh in the auction last year, the pace bowler has improved by leaps and bounds this season.

Before this season, he had played seven matches in total — 2 in 2022 and 5 in 2020 (for Delhi Capitals) — managing just four wickets, but this year he has emerged as CSK’s leading strike bowler.

Even though he has been a bit expensive, conceding at above 10 per over, his ability to pick wickets consistently makes him an integral part of the CSK outfit.

Chahar has struggled with injuries recently. Having missed the entire IPL last year, Chahar played three matches this season before a hamstring injury laid him low again.

Former coach Ravi Shastri had lambasted Chahar’s fitness issues, saying he is a ‘permanent resident’ of the National Cricket Academy.

“Let us put it in this way, there are quite a few players who have become permanent residents of the NCA. Soon they will get a residence permit there, to walk in any time they want. And it is not a good thing. It’s unreal. I mean you are not playing that much cricket to be injured again and again. You can’t even play four matches on the trot. Then why are you going to NCA for? I mean you come back and after three matches you are back there,” Shastri had said.

Bought by CSK for Rs 14 crore ahead of last season, Chahar finally found his mojo against Mumbai Indians as he ended his wicketless run in IPL 2023.

After Deshpande had accounted for Cameron Green in his first over, Chahar rocked Mumbai with the wickets of Ishan Kishan and Rohit Sharma in his second over. He was exceptional with his control in the Powerplay, with figures of 2/18 in three overs, and must have heaved a sigh of relief at finally bagging a wicket after failing to claim a single wicket in his first four games for CSK.

The three CSK pacers combined accounted for seven wickets for 59 runs in 11 overs to send MI crashing to defeat.

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