Chennai Super Kings (CSK) has been the most consistent IPL team over the years. CSK is the only team to qualify for the playoffs of all the seasons that they have played. CSK had been in the final for a record seven times and they had won the title three times.
Led by the astute MSD, CSK is the team the oppositions fear the most. They have been so dominant in the IPL for so many years that at the start of each season, irrespective of what their squad looks like, they are in with a chance of winning the title every year.
CSK and jersey No.7 are made for each other. Let us analyze the 7 reasons behind CSK’s unparalleled run of success in IPL over the years.
1. Consistency in selection and continuity in retention
CSK believes in consistency in selection and continuity in retention. The management has been conservative in selecting the team at every IPL auction. They are never overambitious and very rarely go overboard at the auction. At times, they have been aggressive in auctions but that was mostly in their effort to retain an existing player like a Ravichandran Ashwin.
Led by the shrewd Kiwi Stephen Fleming at the auction, CSK has been clear in its thought as to what exactly was needed. And once a player is selected, CSK believes in backing him up for a minimum of 2 seasons to achieve the desired results.
A prime example of that strategy was none other than Ashwin. Though Ashwin didn’t get enough opportunity to prove himself in his first IPL season in 2009, Dhoni backed him up in 2010 which paid the rich dividends to CSK and Team India in the subsequent seasons.
Another criteria to which CSK doesn’t pay much attention in the selection process is the age of a player. So many players at the wrong side of 30 like Ashish Nehra, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu and Mike Hussey have contributed to the success of the team.
Again once a player comes into the CSK fore, he is made to feel at home as the dressing room environment is most cordial. The captain, head coach and the members of the support staff ensure that a player’s needs are taken care of so that he can give his best on the field. The professionals playing franchise cricket all over the world have admitted that CSK has been the best among all the franchises they have represented.
CSK believes in retaining the core of their team across seasons. Even ahead of the IPL Auction 2019, they retained as many as 23 players. Mark Wood has been released out of compulsion to give up one overseas player to make the right numbers. Otherwise, he too would have been retained. CSK’s strategy of continuing with tried and trusted players has paid them rich dividends in the past.
Like Ashwin, CSK management would be hoping that players like Sam Billings, David Willey, and Dhruv Shorey would come good in their second season playing for the franchise.
2. Good mix of local players
CSK believes in selecting the perfect local players at an optimum cost. In IPL, it ultimately boils down to the performance of the local players which would determine the fate of a team.
Indian players like MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Murali Vijay, Badrinath, and Ashwin have contributed immensely to the success of CSK. Not to forget the contributions made by players like Shadab Jakati, Parthiv Patel, Mohit Sharma, and L Balaji.
CSK management has been in tune with the availability of the current trend of local players. CSK believes in updating the available local talent before going into every auction. In 2018, they were quick to rope in Deepak Chahar, K.M. Asif, and Dhruv Shorey. They were equally efficient in wrapping up established Indian players like Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu and Shardul Thakur.
As it turned out, Rayudu was the leading run-scorer for CSK and Shardul Thakur the leading wicket-taker for CSK last season.
CSK’s rich resources of local talent over the years has put them at a distinctive advantageous position going into every IPL season.
3. Strong overseas players base
CSK has been blessed with a vast number of overseas talents which titled the balance in the team’s favour on a number of occasions.
To start with, CSK had players of the class of Mathew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Muttiah Muralitharan, Doug Bollinger, Dwayne Smith, Albie Morkel, and Brendon McCullum. CSK has shown its aggressive intent in acquiring overseas players like Chris Morris and Dirk Nannes.
Even in the last auction, CSK was quick to spot new players like Lungisani Ngidi and Mitchell Santner. Again when a replacement was needed for the injured Kedar Jadhav, CSK was quick to react and they wisely went for an in-form overseas player David Willey rather than for a local player.
To emphasize the impact the overseas players had on the fortunes of CSK, in the IPL 2010, Doug Bollinger came in as a replacement for the injured Kiwi all-rounder Jacob Oram. Until that stage, CSK was precariously placed in the points table.
But the arrival of Bollinger has changed CSK’s fortune as the team went on to win the title on the back of the bowling performances of Bollinger. In the IPL 2010, Bollinger finished with 12 wickets at an economy of 6.68. CSK went on to retain their IPL title in 2011 where Bollinger’s contribution was 17 wickets.
Like Bollinger, players like Hayden, Hussey, Bravo, Dwayne Smith, and Mccullum have carried the responsibility of seeing the team through on their shoulders at various stages of the league.
In the 2013 season, Hussey was the top scorer with 733 runs while in 2009 it was Mathew Hayden with 572 runs. In 2013, Bravo was the leading wicket-taker with 32 wickets.
CSK’s strong overseas players' pool is one of the main reasons for CSK’s continued success.
4. Never-say-die spirit of the players
The players who have represented CSK over the years have shown tremendous fighting spirit when their team was down and out. With CSK, no other team could take things for granted, however difficult the target would be. CSK has won so many matches from impossible positions. Their players were confident enough to fight it out till the very end.
With the presence of players like Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Albie Morkel, and Dwayne Bravo, CSK was always in with a chance against all odds. These exceptional players have cultivated the fighting spirit amongst the new generation players and passed on the baton so successfully over the years.
A taster of a match where CSK came back from death
In the 13th match of IPL 2012 against RCB, CSK needed 43 runs from 12 balls. Dhoni got out to the last ball of the 18th over after scoring 41 off 24 balls. CSK needed a boundary off every ball in the remaining two overs. Any other team would have thrown in the towel, but not CSK. Albie Morkel was the new batsman. CSK’s task was made easy when captain Vettori decided to go in with Virat Kohli to bowl the 19th over.
Kohli’s first ball to Albie was inside edged to the fine-leg boundary. Despite the boundary, CSK still needed a boundary of every remaining ball. Morkel lifted the next ball over long-on for a six. The next 2 balls too went for a four and a six. The last ball of the over disappeared into the crowd. Morkel smacked 28 runs in the 19th over bowled by Kohli.
Now CSK needed 15 off the last over bowled by Vinay Kumar. Morkel got out to the second ball of the last over for 28 off 7 balls. RCB was back in the game with 14 needed off 4 balls. But Vinay Kumar bowled a chest-high no ball to Bravo which Bravo swiftly despatched to the boundary.
Bravo flat-batted the next ball for a six. With 2 needed from the last ball, new batsman Jadeja finished off the match in style with a boundary. CSK needed 43 runs in the last 2 overs but ended up scoring 45 runs to win the match in the end. This match was just a sample of so many other matches which CSK came back to win.
Another trait of the CSK team is that they are equally comfortable while batting first or second. They have the team to overcome any situation and they are least dependant on the outcome of the toss of the coin.
5. Different heroes for different matches
CSK found different heroes for different matches. CSK never depended on one or two players and different players stood up for the team on different occasions for different challenges.
A review of the last IPL season would prove the above point.
1. In the first match of the season against Mumbai Indians, it was Bravo who came to the party with an astonishing inning of 68 from 30 balls. After Bravo’s heroics, it was the turn of the injured Kedar Jadhav to finish off the match in style standing on one leg.
2. In CSK’s second match against KKR at Chennai, it was Sam Billings turn to play a big hand for a winning cause by scoring 56 off 23 balls. It was left to Bravo and Jadeja to hit a couple of sixes to reach the target in the last over.
3. Against King XI, Dhoni, struggling from an injury, very nearly won the match for his team with a brilliant 79 off 44 balls. In the end, CSK lost the match by 4 runs.
4. Shane Watson and Suresh Raina took care of Rajasthan Royals. Against RCB, Rayudu and Dhoni made light work of a difficult target of 205.
5. In their return match against RCB, Jadeja and Harbhajan combined to bundle out RCB for 127. Rayadu scored his first IPL hundred to knock SRH out.
6. In their last league match against Kings XI Punjab, Suresh Raina finally came to the party with an unbeaten 61 and along with the relatively unknown Deepak Chahar(39) took his team home. Before that, it was Lungi Ngidi’s 4 wicket haul which restricted Punjab to 153.
7. In qualifier 1 against SRH, Faf Du Plessis who had a quiet season until then played his best IPL innings and remained not out on 67 in his team’s 2 wicket win.
8. In the grand final, it was Shane Watson all the way. From 0 off 10 balls, Watson blasted 117 runs in the next 47 balls to enable CSK to its third title win.
The ability of different CSK players to rise to different occasions is one of the main reasons for CSK’s success story.
6. Loyalty and prayers of the strong fan base
This might sound weird but it was the prayers of the CSK fans which helped the team to cross one hurdle after the other. Though it might sound so far-fetched, it only amounts to presenting the facts.
CSK commands the biggest fan base amongst all the franchise teams all over the world. The CSK fans throng the stadium in big numbers wherever their team plays. IPL, in fact, lost its charm when CSK didn’t take part in 2016 and 2017.
The effect the prayers had on the fortunes of CSK can be best illustrated in the following manner:
In the IPL 2012, CSK needed a win against Kings XI in their last group match at Dharmasala. But CSK lost that match and finished the group stage with 17 points. On the same night, Royal Challengers won their match against Delhi Daredevils to move onto 17 points.
Now CSK, in order to qualify for the playoff, had to depend on the results of 4 other games which should all go in their favour. The position of CSK was so hopeless that its main player Dwayne Bravo reached New Delhi for his onward return journey to the Caribbean.
This was when the prayers of the CSK fans played a huge role and miracles started to happen. In the next match Deccan Chargers with their win, very nearly eliminated the other rival for CSK, Rajasthan Royals who ultimately went out of the tournament after their defeat in the last match against Mumbai Indians.
In the next match, bottom-placed Delhi Daredevils played the role of Party Poopers to perfection against Kings XI and it was now left to CSK and RCB to grab the one remaining spot. Both had 17 points, while CSK had a better run rate, RCB had one match in hand against the bottom-placed Deccan Chargers.
All CSK fans were frantically praying for RCB to lose against Deccan Chargers which would automatically dent RCB’s net run rate. This match was played at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Hyderabad. While the real match was played between RCB and Deccan Chargers, the actual competition was between CSK and RCB to grab a place in the playoff.
When Deccan Chargers batted first and scored just 132, it was almost all over for CSK. CSK’s plight further worsened when Chris Gayle took off with 27 off 10 balls.
Fortunately for CSK, Dale Steyn chose that day to exhibit his blistering fast bowling skills. Steyn wrapped the other opener, Dilshan on the pads and uprooted Gayle’s middle stump out of the ground. Steyn finished with figures of 4-0-8-3.
In spite of Steyn’s best spell in IPL, RCB were comfortably placed at 103 for 4 with chase master King Kohli at the wicket. RCB needed 30 runs in 4 overs with 6 wickets in hand. That was when the prayers of CSK fans started to take effect and their prayers were finally answered when Kohli got out to Ashish Reddy for 42. The relatively unknown Ashish Reddy suddenly became a hero with figures of 3 for 25 and RCB crashed out of the match and the tournament. CSK went on to reach the final of IPL 2012 where they lost to KKR.
The loyalty and the faith the CSK fans reposed in their team is yet another reason for CSK’s success in IPL across all seasons.
7. The presence of Thala Dhoni the inspirational leader
Dhoni is the face of CSK. The one reason why CSK commands a huge fan following all over the world is the presence of the one and only MS Dhoni in the team. Apart from being a successful IPL player for CSK, Dhoni has been the inspirational captain for them across all seasons. Dhoni and Suresh Raina have been the constant factor for CSK right from the inaugural season of IPL.
In CSK, Dhoni has nurtured so many youngsters like Ashwin, Jadeja, Mohit Sharma, Shardul Thakur, and Deepak Chahar. Even Raina’s career changed for good after his association with Dhoni’s CSK.
Dhoni, the inspirational leader, has been successful in bringing out the best from his players. Even some of the overseas players like Lungi Ngidi and Adam Zampa, while playing for RPS, benefited from Dhoni’s knowledge and experience. Dhoni knows how to handle experienced international players like Faf Du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, and Shane Watson. On the field, Dhoni, as always, looks calm and composed in rotating his International bowlers to best effect.
As far as IPL 2019 is concerned, there are speculations going around that a lot of players will be skipping the IPL owing to the World Cup in England that immediately follows the IPL.
But CSK will have no such problems as they are assured of the presence of Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, Murali Vijay, Harbhajan Singh, and Karn Sharma. Suresh Raina too might join that list. CSK fans would be hoping the list doesn’t get bigger in personality and longer in length.