Mumbai: Chennai Super Kings' fairytale comeback is a proof that fitness matter more than age, said skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni after guiding his team to a third IPL title.
At the auction, CSK were criticised for picking up nine players in their 30s including Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu, who eventually were instrumental in the team's triumph.
"We talked a lot about age but what matters is the fitness. Rayudu, for example, is 32, he's someone who is fit, covers a lot of ground. Even if he plays a few games where he spends a lot of time on the ground and in the field, he never complains. So it is the fitness that really matters more than the age aspect," said the 36-year-old Dhoni after the crushing win over SRH.
"What captains want is players who move well in the field. It doesn't matter which year a player is born in, whether you are 19 or 20 - you have to be agile. You have to accept your shortcomings.
"For example, if I push Watson to stop a single, there is a very good chance that he'll burst his hamstring and won't be available for the next game. So what you tell yourselves is that they have to commit and try, but there's no point getting injured for a single," said Dhoni before adding the CSK squad will be heading to Chennai on Monday for further celebrations.
Watson's sensational knock ensured CSK chased down a challenging 179 with ease. It was a memorable tournament for the 36-year-old Australian, who ended with 555 runs including two centuries and as many half centuries.
"It's been a special season to be honest. To get a special season especially after the last season with RCB. It means a lot to be with a franchise like CSK. After those first ten balls I was only hoping to catch up to at least a run-a-ball," said Watson.
Watson battled pain and injury to take the team home.
"The good thing is that I wouldn't be playing for the next three-four months; feels great. It gives me plenty of time to recover. Throughout the back end of the tournament I was hanging on for dear life, Stephen Fleming and MS Dhoni have been looking after me really well and I am really glad to contribute like I did tonight," he added.
SRH captain Kane Williamson also had a rich run with the bat, amassing 735 runs to end as the season's highest run-getter.
Willamson had replaced the suspended David Warner as captain just ahead of the IPL.
The New Zealander was disappointed that the team could not win the all-important final after posting 178 for six.
"We thought it'll be a competitive total, but the pitch did hold a bit. We saw that in our first five-six overs, and for the large part of the game we were doing okay. But hats off to Shane Watson. You do have to congratulate CSK," he said.
"It's (loss) frustrating because we played some really good cricket for the large part. Wasn't to be, and they certainly showed their experience. The boys are hurting at the moment, but we've fought hard. A shame not to come across the line, but a lot of positives," he added.
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IPL matches will be played at Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi with limited seating available keeping in mind the COVID protocols and UAE government regulations
Four-time winners Mumbai Indians, two-time champions Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and 2020 finalists Delhi Capitals were placed in the top-four when IPL was suspended in May due to COVID cases in its bio-bubble.
Ravindra Jadeja, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shardul Thakur, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran are part of the CSK squad which has already started training ahead of the IPL resuming 19 September.