The roaring thirties: on CSK's triumph

At the end of the Indian Premier League, the victory of Chennai Super Kings has an air of familiar inevitability about it. The most consistent franchise since the IPL’s inception in 2008, CSK has played seven finals, including Sunday’s at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. In those pivotal clashes, M.S. Dhoni’s men triumphed in three. Despite being suspended for two seasons — 2016, 2017 — following a betting scandal involving a team official, the new team wore a familiar look. All credit to skipper Dhoni who sported his signature unflappable cool as his team coasted to an easy victory, after some nail-biting finishes in earlier rounds. Right through the season the cameras trained on the CSK dugout showed a Dhoni who was undemonstrative even as he let his players display a gamut of emotions. The captain’s icy demeanour was an antidote to the frenzied twists of Twenty20 cricket. CSK was disadvantaged inasmuch as it had to play all its matches — except the one against Kolkata Knight Riders in Chennai on April 10 — as away games. Its home games were shifted to Pune after protests against holding the IPL in Chennai. Having missed the last two seasons and then being forced to discard the home advantage, Dhoni and company did well to last the distance and get past Sunrisers Hyderabad, the team with the best bowling unit.

Many factors have combined to make CSK an IPL colossus: the retention of core players; the faith invested in old legs at a time when it is believed Twenty20 is all about youth; and the adulation of die-hard fans. Shane Watson’s pulse-pounding unbeaten 57-ball 117 in the final fitted into the template of finding a man for the moment. Dhoni, Faf du Plessis, Lungi Ngidi, Ambati Rayudu, Dwayne Bravo and Suresh Raina had theirs during the tournament. If CSK’s path seemed preordained, it wasn’t easy for SRH as its preparatory phase was in turmoil following its previous skipper David Warner’s role in the ball-tampering crisis that tainted the Tests between Australia and South Africa. The Australian opener was stood down, but the good thing for SRH was that his replacement in the hot seat, Kane Williamson, led well besides striking in tandem with Shikhar Dhawan. The bowlers were on the mark and Rashid Khan was in the thick of action with 21 wickets, handy runs and his display of agility on the field. Afghanistan’s 19-year-old leg-spinner is one of the brightest talents in cricket today and the limelight he drew thanks to the IPL proved that the league is a springboard for emerging cricketers. But as the stardust settles, the sudden retirement of South African A.B. de Villiers from international cricket is a cautionary pointer to the grim reality of leading players spreading themselves thin while turning out for countries, provinces, franchises and clubs.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 3:41:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-roaring-thirties/article24017314.ece

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