Watson's poor run has hampered CSK in the powerplay. AFP

Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming reckoned the team needed to pace the innings better during the PowerPlay overs if they were to get closer to posting match-winning totals and giving their bowlers a considerable target to work with.

CSK began with an atrocious tally of 16 for 1 in the first six overs against RCB in the tournament opener, and have endured tough times in the phase where most teams look for a batting advantage. CSK have suffered mainly through the number of wickets they've lost in this phase - 29, the highest this season. CSK have averaged about 37 runs in the first six overs, and have managed to score in excess of 50 on just two occasions.

"Yeah it [pacing the innings] is tough. There's the problem we're finding - we're so far behind in the powerplays. We're doing things right from overs 6 to 20, the run rate today I think was 7 and [then] 10 [in the last six overs]. We're getting the right runs there, [but] we are just finding ourselves behind in the powerplays.

With majority of the home games played on slow Chepauk pitches, it became imperative for CSK to start with a flourish so as to consolidate slowly through the tough middle overs.

But with persistent slow starts, there would've been a nagging temptation to shift gears when the field is spread out. Though, that's a risk CSK have steered clear of, as per Fleming, who believes a score of 40 or more would suffice to build towards a more competitive total. With a final spot still there for the taking, Fleming felt his team could attempt a different approach to the first six overs in order to alter results.

"You run the risk if we over-attacked in the middle in those conditions, you can find yourself bowled out for 100. So you've got to have an element of safety. By the time you get that it's around about 14 overs, from there we were able to go at 10 an over [CSK scored at 8-an-over in the last six overs] which got us through to a competitive score.

"But we need to have more balance in the first six - around 40 would be nice. That may get you to a score of 150-160 which can be a match-winning score. We're just falling behind at different stages but it's the first six that's holding us back when we lose wickets. Maybe in case we just throw the shackles off and have a crack in the next game and see if we can just get ourselves into form and confidence," Fleming said.

CSK could yet make the final and repeat last year's heroics, but the gulf in their performances and numbers from last year are stark.

Shane Watson has followed his tremendous hitting form in 2018 (555 runs at a strike rate of 154.59) with sub-par returns this year (268 at a strike rate of 121.26), including 11 dismissals in the PowerPlay - an unwanted record.

Ambati Rayudu has tapered off quite spectacularly from his 602-run season. This year he has 261 runs at an appalling strike rate of 93.54. CSK's MVP through all these years, Suresh Raina, has also regressed - going from 445 in 2018 to 364 so far this year, while seeing a dip in the strike rate.

Interestingly, Fleming threw his weight behind the misfiring batsmen, and explained why at CSK they follow the philosophy of extended a long rope and why at this stage of the season, there is no other way out.

"You've just got to back them. Two or three games out from the end of the season, we're making decisions on players to get us through to the end.

"We sort of go the other way [of chopping and changing], trying to just back the player enough that their cycle will come. And if it runs out, then so be it. We can go back and analyse that we should have made the change five games ago. But if you make a change now in the finals and change the tactics, it just means that you haven't had the right discussions leading up to this point.

"And we just back players because they're proven performers, doing all the right things, but it is just not working. This can be a cruel game, especially when you're playing in conditions like this for over half the season. So we make quite balanced decisions or have quite robust discussions around it. And this year we've just backed the players we've got and will continue to do so.