The sun beat down relentlessly at Chepauk. There was plenty of heat on the men in yellow as well.
The popular side was under pressure even as it practiced ahead of a crucial league duel against Royal Challengers Bangalore. CSK had gone down in five of its first seven matches. Amidst sunshine, the prospects of a semifinal berth looked dim.
Taking a break from the sweltering heat, Mahendra Singh Dhoni surveyed the proceedings. Even if he was worried, his body language did not reflect his state of mind. The skipper appeared calm and relaxed. The quiet resilience in lion-heart Dhoni and his men could not be missed. CSK would fly again.
Bucked the odds
In the process, the team from Chennai bucked the odds, staring adversity on its face. Full of belief, the side used the situation it found itself in as a motivating factor. Eventually, a brave bunch held the cup.
The side won when it mattered, peaked at the right time.
Apart from his weighty blows with the willow, Dhoni emerged the captain of IPL III. Crucially, he picked three spinners in the eleven and made all the right moves on the field. His spinners proved winners.
He spoke little on the field but a glare would convey more to the errant player than a thousand words. Dhoni had his finger on the pulse of the game and was pro-active. With the willow, he was the destructive finisher, timing his onslaught to perfection in the do-or-die last league game against Kings XI Punjab in Dharamsala.
And his men responded. The players backed one another and a sense of bonding was high. Team-spirit is a key ingredient of any triumphant combination.
Of course, there were some outstanding individual performances. The left-handed Suresh Raina put the team on the right path with a blaze of strokes at the crunch. His unbeaten 35-ball 57 in the title clash was as influential as they come. It must be said, though, that Mumbai Indians' dropped catches provided Raina a fresh lease of life.
The southpaw is a precious talent. The versatile Raina can rotate the strike, pierce the gaps on both sides and unleash the big blows. If he can sort out his difficulties against the short ball, Raina could have a rewarding career in the longer version of the game too.
Like several others on the arena, Raina fielded with resolve. The aggressive fielding — some of the catching was spirit-lifting — put the opposition under immense stress. CSK was swift and clinical.
In the business end of the competition, CSK stuck to a settled eleven although the decision to continue with a grossly out-of-form Matthew Hayden could have proved a costly mistake.
Murali Vijay, the architect of CSK's revival, struck the ball with tremendous power and balance on the leg-side. S. Badrinath displayed much character and the young S. Anirudha provided glimpses of his ability.
CSK's three-pronged spin attack was a varied one. Off-spinner R. Ashwin was spot on with the new ball, harrying the batsmen with his accuracy and subtle variations in speed, length and the extent of spin.
Spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan's ability to harness the angles and his two-way turn made things harder for the batsmen. Steady left-armer Shadab Jakati might not have bowled an attacking line, but delivered. Bowling Coach Venkatesh Prasad has performed a worthy job.
Of course, Doug Bollinger, the bustling left-arm paceman, provided the much-needed cutting edge to CSK's attack. He pitched the ball in the right areas, extracted lift and breathed down the neck of batsmen.
The new ball combination of contrasts — Ashwin and Bollinger — did not allow the top-order to settle into a rhythm. Gradually, CSK choked the opposition.
The most consistent side in the competition — CSK was a finalist in 2008 and a semifinalist in 2009 — was a deserving winner in the cauldron away from home.