IPL 2018: Analyzing CSK’s title win
After the most closely fought league stage of the Indian Premier League and an action-packed playoff saga, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings had made it to the finals. And despite the brand of cricket that SRH had played in the tournament, the Chennai Super Kings looked a more confident side going into the finals.
Prior to the season opener in Mumbai, most of the cricket pundits and experts agreed on one thing that the CSK squad looked a bit aged and that it remained to be seen whether the experienced players, the likes of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Faf Du Plessis, Shane Watson and Dwayne Bravo have still got it in them to perform in such a merciless format where the margin for error is extremely low. Even the recent form of some of these stalwarts suggested that they had probably passed their prime.
However, CSK proved that old is indeed gold for the Chennai fans who got to cheer for their team after two long years. In a remarkable team performance, CSK found a new hero each time the tide was against them. MS Dhoni, fair to say, led from the front and came back to finish off games with the bat.
The numbers also tell a story- with 455 runs in 16 games, MS finished just 6 behind his highest ever aggregate total in a single IPL season. Dhoni had accumulated 461 runs in 2013- at a time when nobody raised a brow on his finishing ability. Shane Watson recovered from a forgettable season with RCB last year and with 2 hundreds in a single tournament, Watson's season was as good as anybody, and the fact that his unbeaten hundred came in a run chase at the summit clash made it all the more special.
Almost everyone in the squad had their moments in the tournament. Even Kedar Jadhav ensured Chennai's victory despite his leg injury before being ruled out of the tournament for the same. Sam Billings won them a crucial game against Kolkata Knight Riders and when the odds looked against them, out of nowhere, Faf du Plessis produced a beauty in the Qualifier to aid CSK reserve a place in the finals.
While Suresh Raina and Dwayne Bravo, the two pillars of the CSK family, contributed with the bat as well, it was Ambati Rayudu who had a breakthrough season with Chennai this year. Rayudu, who finished with 602 runs this season, helped CSK be in such a dominant place at the points tally in the league stage and it was fitting that he scored the winning runs in the finale.
CSK, like in their glorious past, looked comfortable while chasing big totals because of the quality batsmanship that they showcased and when they made their fairy tale come back into the league it was a comfortable run chase in the finals that got them to the trophy.
The only area of concern that had caused Dhoni’s cool demeanor to diminish at times during the tournament was CSK’s bowling which had also looked tidy in bits and pieces. Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur had been phenomenal with the ball in hand, picking up wickets whenever the team needed them. Chahar even played a little cameo with the bat helping Chennai register a win against SRH. The spinners Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja bowled well in tandem so much so that Dhoni did not play Imran Tahir in the second half of the tournament and even Raina did not roll his arms over this year.
As per the wicket at the venue and the strength of the opposition, either of Karn Sharma or Bhajji got the nod in the playing 11 and neither of them disappointed their skipper. Young Lungi Ngidi clearly made the difference in the squad, picking up wickets straight away, right from his first game in the IPL up until the final where a unique amalgamation of Ngidi’s youth coupled by Watson’s experience helped CSK bag the game and the trophy. Dwayne Bravo was on and off at the death but that’s the beauty of team sport that it didn’t look as ugly as it should have because of the other departments in which CSK excelled.
However, what distinguished Chennai brigade from the other franchises was their ability to win the pressure situations, the weapon that the team had in terms of experienced big match players, the fact that Chennai had beaten SRH three times in this tournament before the finals and the astute leadership of perhaps the most unorthodox yet successful captain in MS Dhoni.
That proved enough for CSK to cross the final hurdle and win the trophy for the third time as the world witnessed on Sunday (May 27). If Roger Federer wasn’t enough, CSK proved yet again that age is just a number in sports until it starts compromising with one's fitness and mental strength to go out there in the middle and perform.
The IPL was not the same without CSK, it couldn't have been.