Exuberant batting performances, mesmerizing bowling spells, few extra-ordinary catches, athletic fielding displays and numerous unforgettable memories, IPL 2018 has proved to be the most aesthetic of all. Two months of this cricketing carnival transpired onto festive moods and post all exciting, nervous and heart-warming moments, the comeback Kings CSK emerged victorious. A team built with 11 on-field match winners, 20 off-field supportstars and thousands of dedicated fans, the Whistle Podu family celebrated their third title getting the better off SRH.
Shane Watson took the reigns in his hand after allowing the Sunrisers bowlers to cringe on him with pressure in the first 10 deliveries, where he failed to get off the mark. 117 of 57 chasing 179 is worthy of all praise. Getting all his experience to the fore, Watson maneuvered the bowlers to all parts of the ground.
Coming off an unfortunate switch in home ground, Chennai adapted well and made the most of their opportunities. Being the most balanced side of the tournament perhaps, the ‘Champion’ crown is more a justice to their doings than a surprise.
Their choice of going in with 9 thirty-plus players in the auction took everyone by surprise and amassed ample criticisms. However, the team management as well as coach Stephen Fleming were confident and optimistic of this decision.
“What I have seen over the years is that experience and professional players dominate big part of the IPL. Older players, who are still motivated, fit and committed, can provide consistency, which help their teams to make progress at the top of the table moving forward.”
And that’s exactly what Chennai capitalized on. Be it the tournament opener against Mumbai where Bravo and Kedar held their nerve to seal the deal or the qualifier against Hyderabad where Faf du Plessis utilized his experience to see CSK through against the mighty destructive Sunrisers bowling lineup, there’s always been something about these senior players. MS Dhoni and the team management have used them judiciously as well. Allowing the players to rest, not burdening them with too much of responsibilities and giving them the leisure to play hard and free has done wonders for the team.
Players who seemed to taper off during the previous editions of IPL have come to the franchise and almost reincarnated their career with a flare. The way Shane Watson struggled for the Royal Challengers last year, the way Rayudu and Raina lost their places from the national side or be it the way Harbhajan Singh showed signs of giving away to age, Chennai have still bought out the best out of these veterans for the game. The opening stand Watson and Rayudu have established this season, set the tone for the rest of their middle order to follow. The discipline and street-smart bowling from Harbhajan and Jadeja just about allowed the rest of the bowlers the extra margin of error.
Instinctive yet effective tactics from Dhoni to go along with his unleashed batting-avatar this season caught attractive admiration. The vital cameos from Bravo and Raina also came in handy along their path of victory. The young blood of Chahar, Ngidi and Billings too lived up to the expectations. But even after all this, one would still give a thought to why CSK have attained consistent success even with different set of players over the years?
The answer lies deep within the CSK dressing room. The culture MS Dhoni and Fleming have successfully developed over the years goes unmatched to probably all other IPL teams. The freedom they have showered upon the players to not only approach their game the way they like but also to express themselves is worth a lesson. The constant support-staff has also tuned in pretty well with the team management. Supportive franchise and warm-hosting sponsors have helped to keep the required team spirit alive. Striking a perfect balance not only with the team combinations but with the dressing room atmosphere as a whole stands a main cause to CSK’s winning habit.
Post the injury to Kedar Jadhav, another important factor that has influenced the turn in tides is the rotation of players as well as the batting order. Playing without any wrist/mystery spinner, it was important to generate the unpredictability and doubt in the batsman’s mind. Dhoni from time to time ensured that his bowlers kept the shape and confidence intact. By virtue of rotating them according to the conditions, he’s played everyone into form. Similar scripts were portrayed in the batting. Allowing Rayudu to seek his natural game at the top, playing around with Faf and Billings to team’s benefits and also giving himself the time and space to settle in before initiating a carnage, Dhoni had his tactics perfectly in place throughout. Despite a few disastrous loses here and there, CSK were never not in contention for a Top 2 finish. One of the masterstrokes from Dhoni however came on the penultimate day of the league stage when he sent in the tailenders to create a chaos against the mighty impressive Kings XI Punjab. Chahar and Harbhajan disturbed the rhythm of the bowlers and neutralized the swing with a few slogs and wild swings. Eventually, it helped CSK to easily pocket the match in their own den.
Every game constitutes a game plan and every game plan demands an on-point execution. CSK this year have nailed every department with utmost glory. Under Captain cool, CSK always generated a sense of calm in panic situations. In such leagues, it’s important to fiddle around with your strengths and cover up for your weaknesses and Super Kings have pulled it off exceedingly well. Setting up a benchmark for all teams to follow, Chennai has certainly proved how experience reciprocates the given value and respect.