They were ridiculed. A lot. Some called them the “senior citizens.” Others named them “daddy army.” And why wouldn’t they? The average age of the team was above 30. Jokes were made and people on social media had a field day gathering likes and retweets.
Then, the IPL began.
And the old lions roared. At the mighty Wankhede, a familiar face was back to leading a familiar yellow. A comeback was announced in the grandest of fashions. Something special had happened. Something special was brewing up. It was the first day of the eleventh season of Indian Premier League, and Chennai Super Kings were back.
Various factors were crucial to Chennai Super Kings’ success in this season’s IPL. theSportsRush takes a look at reasons why CSK emerged as IPL winners.
Homework for Auction:
During the auction, Chennai Super Kings decided to retain the core of the team. MS Dhoni (36), Suresh Raina (31) and Ravindra Jadeja (29). Later, they signed Shane Watson (36), Ambati Rayudu (32), Harbhajan Singh (37) and Dwayne Bravo (34), all of whom set the core of the team. An average age of 33.
But they didn’t only bring a vast array of experience with them. They brought a mentality. All the players from this seven-member core had won the IPL in the past. And it was the self-belief which CSK had in their system which led to this success. With such an experience, it became easier to define the roles of every member in the squad. CSK never faced the problem of over-reliance on a particular player, like every other team in IPL did. And much of its credit goes to the homework which Stephen Fleming most efficiently did before the auction.
Ambati Rayudu, the top scorer for CSK in this IPL, scored 133 runs less than tournament’s top scorer Kane Williamson. But he was very well complimented by Shane Watson, who scored 555 runs in this season at a strike rate of 149. MS Dhoni enjoyed his best season in the IPL, scoring 455 runs at a staggering average of 75. And Suresh Raina scored ten runs less, at 445 with four fifties in the tournament.
CSK was also benefited by cameos from players like Dwayne Bravo, whose match-winning 30-ball 68 in the very first game of the IPL set the tone of Chennai’s season.
MS Dhoni’s leadership was central to CSK’s success. Ambati Rayudu has played most of his IPL career in the middle order for Mumbai Indians. But shifting him to the opening slot was a classic MS Dhoni move – backing the strengths of your personnel. Dhoni trusted Rayudu’s skills against pace and against spin. Rayudu utilised his newfound freedom to excellent use, and topped the run-charts for CSK. However, he also made middle-order cameos on other days, like in the final.
– Dhoni’s reliance on youngsters
CSK might be called the “team of the oldies,” but Dhoni made efficient use of the youngsters he had inside the dressing room.
Lungi Ngidi was a surprise buy in the IPL auction. He was bought for 50 lakh by CSK, a move which can be easily considered as daylight robbery today. The South African pacer didn’t have much to show in his T20 resume, and didn’t play in the initial games of the IPL. However, once he made his IPL debut, he became the first team regular. He provided the stability in the bowling line-up, especially during the powerplay overs. He kept the flow of run at bay, and bowled tight line and lengths in the death overs. His bowling spells were important in the context of economy rate, as his fellow bowling partners Dwayne Bravo and Shardul Thakur proved to be expensive at times.
– Use of Dwayne Bravo
However, the latter duo turned out to be excellent partnership breakers. Bravo’s economy rate led MS Dhoni to utilise him in the middle overs – a move which worked well for the Chennai side. He provided regular breakthroughs in the middle of the innings, which eventually became the key moments of the game. Bravo and Shardul shared 27 wickets between them. Ngidi played 7 games, and dismissed 11 batsmen.
– Backing Chahar’s ability
Deepak Chahar impressed Dhoni during his time at Rising Pune SuperGiants, and while Dhoni could only watch him being under-utilised by Steven Smith, he wasted no opportunity in investing in the youngster at CSK. He played 12 games, and although he took 10 wickets, he played a major role in curbing the run rates. His economy rate of 7.85 proved to be crucial for the Chennai side.
The Whistlepodu Army
When Chennai were suspended for two years in 2016, their official accounts on Twitter and Facebook didn’t close. They continued to communicate with their fans. For the next two seasons, they interacted with the supporters and actively participated in online discourses during and after the IPL seasons. They ensured they don’t keep their fan-base in seclusion. And perhaps, this gives a fair idea about what Chennai Super Kings, as a club, stands for.
CSK’s loyal support gives the IPL franchise an extra edge, and when CSK’s matches were shifted from Chennai due to a state dispute, the club paid for travel and ticketing for fans coming from Chennai when CSK played in their the first Pune game.
In the post-match interview, Dhoni emphasised that irrespective of the result, the team would’ve travelled to Chennai to thank the crowd for their loyal support. Certainly, CSK’s hard-work in building this support, and the reward in form of such loyalty from fans act as a major boost for players.