MS Dhoni, CSK, and an IPL Final – At it once again

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MSD and CSK

He’s done it again. MS Dhoni has taken an IPL team to the Final, once again. 11 times out of 16. 10 on 14 for CSK themselves.

At 144/9 after 18.4, with the game in the bag, Tushar Deshpande bowled a slow, length ball on the stumps. The tailender in Mohammad Shami swung it through to the Square Leg boundary. As irrelevant and dead as it may seem, MS Dhoni was livid at the bowler for not bowling to the plan. It tells you about the man, tells you about how he never compromises with the process. Arguably, the reason why we have seen Chennai (or Pune) be in the finals more often than not.

Not as flawless a season as we have seen before but Chennai Super Kings and MS Dhoni had it all figured out pretty quickly. They were well aware of the things that worked for them, well informed of the injuries they had to take care of and more importantly, they were well-prepared for everything that would possibly come their way. Unlike a few teams, it hasn’t been about 3 or 4 specific players, it has always been about every single individual performer and all the small contributions everyone has had throughout the season. For those who were brought in as mere replacements, for those who were given perhaps a longer rope, for the young, and for the experienced, the CSK approach did not seem to change. It is the dressing room environment that every CSK player from over the years has talked about, after all. Not just from the MSD standpoint but from every member of the support staff. The making of the most successful franchise (arguably, with MI) is more than just one person.

Despite a strong Top 2, the CSK middle order emerged to be the batting engine
Despite a strong Top 2, the CSK middle order emerged to be the batting engine

Ruturaj and Conway have been sensational at the top throughout, the likes of Rahane, Dube, Rayudu, Jadeja and Moeen have done well in the middle and Dhoni himself has been one of the fiercest strikers of the cricket ball towards the back end. The constant backing and the opportunities given to the players have brought together the Chennai batting order like no other. Interestingly, CSK is the only team to have no uncapped Indian in their batting lineup throughout the last 15 games. The team gained from the experience of every batter in crunch situations and rounded it off with a sound tactic of using the best players at the right time. For example, the use of Jadeja and Moeen in the finisher’s role or at 4, the rotation of Dube and Rayudu as per the opponents, and to top it off the last-over flourishes from MS all, came along quite well.

The same could be said about the CSK bowling although in a completely opposite setting. The inexperience of the bowlers was seemingly visible right from the start. Apart from Chahar, Jadeja, and (maybe) Teekshana, the bowling lacked depth. The rise of Tushar Deshpande, Matheesha Pathirana, and Akash Singh is an outcome of the team environment, mostly if not wholely. While the former two did their bit throughout the tournament, the latter proved to be a worthy replacement for the injured Chahar. And as it always has been the case, the mindful use of all his resources from MS is a huge cue for Chennai’s success this year.

Teekshana and Pathirana have been at the helm of CSK’s bowling stability this season
Teekshana and Pathirana have been at the helm of CSK’s bowling stability this season

To have the Qualifier 1, in front of the home crowd and to have won it with utmost ease, is also important in MS’s possible farewell to IPL and cricket overall. While the maestro has not quite made up his mind yet, the day does not seem to be much far. For now, it is the final that everyone will keenly look forward to – on whether we get another MI CSK final – only time will tell.

MS Dhoni, Chennai Super Kings, and the IPL Final – we are all at it, once again.

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