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CSK will always live by the sword of trust and die by it

The defending champions crumbled under pressure against GT (Pic Credits: The Quint)
The defending champions crumbled under pressure against GT (Pic Credits: The Quint)

Faith and trust are often overused words in today’s world, and can be found in almost every walk of life. When speaking about personal relationships, it can denote how comfortable two people are with each other when sharing their biggest insecurities.

At a workplace, it’s the camaraderie you enjoy with your colleagues and how far you will be willing to go to ensure that that enriches your work rather than act as an impediment. In families, it is unconditional. Nothing is expected in return, and there is an understanding to not abuse the faith and trust established.

In sport, however, this dynamic is as fickle as anything on this planet. These can be excellent buzzwords to use in press conferences and to proclaim to the world what they intend to do as a sporting organization. But when teams hit rocky terrains, this notion is tested to the hilt. Not just because of what they said earlier, but also because of the immediate ramifications it usually has.

Unsurprisingly, this trait hasn’t been mastered by many sides over the years. Cricket, especially in a country like India, hasn’t housed many such stories either, considering the sheer talent existing in the land and the tickling feeling that the person waiting in the bush is better than the one in hand. The Chennai Super Kings (CSK), though, are perhaps the anomaly among this particular debris.

Throughout their celebrated history, they’ve relied on the mantra that boring is best. While other teams have tried to shuffle their packs, CSK have been content to believe in their pack and build trust. MS Dhoni, who has quite often called the shots for the franchise, has been at the forefront of that philosophy.

This season, though, he isn’t in charge. Ravindra Jadeja is. So, there was a chance that CSK would abandon what they had been doing all these years and adopt something more pragmatic. But if early evidence, including the shattering defeats against the Gujarat Titans and the Lucknow Super Giants is anything to go by, it seems that status quo is still very much intact.

It hasn’t led to as much success as it has done in the past. That, however, is only indicative of how steadfast CSK are in their approach, and how it will take more than a solitary mediocre season to undo years of hard work.

Before dissecting the game against the Titans, it is important to cast an eye towards their match against LSG – a fixture they should have won but ultimately contrived to lose. At the Brabourne Stadium, CSK found themselves in cruise control, with KL Rahul’s men requiring 34 runs off 2 overs.

While the game was meandering towards that juncture, murmurs had begun that CSK had miscalculated. Dwaine Pretorius and Dwayne Bravo had bowled out, meaning that one of Jadeja, Moeen Ali, Mukesh Choudhary or Shivam Dube had to bowl the penultimate over, with someone else bowling the final over.

CSK banked on Dube, who hasn’t been a regular bowler in the IPL but can hold his own. It backfired spectacularly as he conceded 25 runs and handed LSG the initiative they craved. It would’ve been very easy to cast aside Dube, despite the all-rounder having scored 49 runs in that game. But they didn’t. A few matches later, Dube produced one of the greatest blitzes in the history of the competition against the Royal Challengers Bangalore.

CSK were well-placed against the Titans too. They had navigated their way to 124/3 in 14 overs and looked primed to cross the 180-run barrier. When Ambati Rayudu fell in the 15th over, many expected Jadeja to stride out, considering he is arguably the best finisher in the IPL. CSK, though, opted for Dube – probably as a reward for what he did against RCB. It didn’t quite yield the desired result, with them huffing and puffing to 169.

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Chris Jordan failed to deliver for CSK against GT

Lovely trusting of a player

During the run-chase, the 2021 champions needed to defend 48 runs off 3 overs. They had Bravo up their sleeve as well, and had Chris Jordan – a seasoned campaigner, to bowl the remaining two overs. The Englishman, though, crumbled under pressure.

He bowled an assortment of slot deliveries and was pummelled for 25 runs. The equation, which was skewed towards CSK, suddenly flipped, with Titans becoming the side in the ascendancy. Bravo bowled a relatively tidy 19th over and accounted for Alzarri Joseph and Rashid Khan. But with Jordan having leaked so many runs, the bigger quandary was around who would bowl the final over.

In the end, they placed their faith in the Englishman, despite what had happened minutes ago. In hindsight, that was the worst possible decision they could’ve taken, considering the tap he had taken against Rashid. But on deeper introspection, it was just the sort of decision CSK would take, and the kind of call that they have often been brave enough to make.

It didn’t go down too well on social media. Understandably. While some of the abuse targeting Jordan wasn’t appreciable, a lot of the criticism was warranted, considering he has fallen off a cliff too many times in the past couple of years. As things stand, he has an economy rate in excess of 10 in the death-overs since the beginning of 2020 and has conceded more than 13 runs per over during this phase in 2022.

In the last six months Chris Jordan has single handedly lost England the T20 worldcup semifinals and now has cost CSK an important match when we had just started finding some momentum.

From that perspective, this was a gamble. But for CSK, this was a punt founded upon the trust they had in what Jordan has historically done. At one point, he was one of the top five death-bowlers in the world. He is nowhere close to reclaiming that spot at the moment. However, he has scaled that perch before.

And, that is probably what CSK take into account more than most IPL teams. They tend to prefer players who have gone through the grind and have proven themselves on the biggest stage. Over the years, there haven’t been many occasions where their brazen belief in players hasn’t translated into tangible rewards.

Gaikwad, who had a torrid start to his IPL career in 2020, returned to bag the IPL Orange Cap a year later. The opening batter endured a horrific beginning in 2022 too, only for him to cream a half-century against the Titans.

Jadeja, too, didn’t quite fulfil his potential during the early exchanges of his CSK career. And here he is now, hoping to lead the franchise into a new era. There were even question marks over Dhoni’s sustainability following an indifferent spell at the Rising Pune Supergiant (s). But they stuck with him, and he led them to two titles in four years and entered the list of IPL winners.

From a collective standpoint, the temptation would’ve been very strong to tweak things post a dubious 2020 campaign. They only added Josh Hazlewood and Moeen Ali to their playing eleven, and won the entire thing a year later.

There are countless stories of CSK backing a player or the team when all cricketing logic and wisdom suggests otherwise. Several of those have been successful as well. This time out, it didn’t quite materialize. Don’t be surprised, though, if they adopt a similar tack whenever the next opportunity presents itself.

CSK always live by the sword of trust and die by it. It works most times. Sometimes it doesn’t. But that is CSK, irrespective of whether they win or lose. Faith and trust remain overused terms in today’s world. The defending champions, however, use it just about right.

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Edited by Prasen Moudgal
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