Win the IPL or not, CSK, once termed ‘Dad’s Army’, have once again proved that they are back among IPL’s elite (Not that they weren’t) and in some style.
Consistency has been Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) keyword in the Indian Premier League (IPL). 12 playoff appearances in 14 editions (Having missed two years due to spot fixing ban in 2016 and 2017), coming back to win the title in 2018 and once again in 2021, there’s something extraordinary about this CSK outfit.
IPL 2022, however, was a different story altogether. Ravindra Jadeja had taken over as CSK skipper before that season, however, his style of captaincy was not so much pleasing to see, so much so that some former cricketers expressed doubts if Dhoni was “controlling the game over Jadeja”.
Even after MS Dhoni retook captaincy from Jadeja midway through IPL 2022, CSK failed to get the desired results. And they faltered, to as low as the ninth place in the points table, only above Mumbai Indians (MI), with both on eight points.
The 10th IPL Final for CSK.
What a consistency. Captain MS Dhoni! pic.twitter.com/rD0MZCkm65
— Mufaddal Vohra (@mufaddal_vohra) May 23, 2023
Fast forward a year, and CSK have shown why they are the best comeback Kings in the IPL. In less than 24 hours, CSK, led by Dhoni, will take the field in Ahmedabad for the IPL 2023 final against Hardik Pandya’s Gujarat Titans (GT). It will be their 10th IPL final, an unprecedented record in the history of the tournament.
Ajinkya Rahane, a big bargain for CSK
Acquiring the services of Ajinkya Rahane for Rs 50 lakh at the IPL Player Auction was a total bargain for CSK, well, at least that’s what it felt like at the start of the tournament this season. The veteran may have scored just two half-centuries, but even those couple of fifties felt like a redemption of sorts. So much so that, he even received an India call-up for the WTC Final that is slated to start from 7 June.
Out of the two fifties, it is that 29-ball 71 against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) that would rank up there, as far as Rahane’s performances in the IPL were concerned. Six fours and five sixes and a strike rate of 244, it was a Rahane innings like never before. This was just two weeks after Rahane had scored a half-century against MI in just 19 deliveries.
— Ajinkya Rahane (@ajinkyarahane88) May 24, 2023
A lot of how Rahane developed his T20 game has to do with how Dhoni has helped him at CSK.
“I’ve enjoyed all my knocks so far, I still feel the best is yet to come. It is a great learning, I’ve played under Mahi bhai for India for many years, and now even at CSK it has been a great learning. If you listen to whatever he says, you will more often than not perform,” the 34-year-old had said after the match against KKR.
Gaikwad-Conway opening stand finally clicks
The rise of Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devon Conway this season at the top of CSK’s batting order has played a pivotal role in helping them reach the final.
On more than one occasion, the duo has shown the opposition teams by example how to build formidable opening partnerships for their team, stitching stands in excess of fifty consistently.
So far, the Conway-Gaikwad partnership this season has produced 775 runs, only behind RCB’s Faf du Plessis-Virat Kohli (939 runs) pair in the history of the tournament, which also came this year.
To put it simply, Conway and Gaikwad have been unstoppable this season, and the two have played a part in helping CSK post totals in excess of 200 on five occasions this season.
Deepak Chahar’s comeback, Shivam Dube the finisher
Part of how CSK have fared so consistently this season has got to the duo of Deepak Chahar and Shivam Dube.
Injuries have haunted Chahar repeatedly, and even this season, the pacer sustained a hamstring injury, but much recently, Chahar has showed signs of improvement in his line and length.
Chahar endured a wicketless run in four matches at the start of the season, but in the next five, he has gone on to scalp 12 wickets, all while conceding less than 30 runs in each match. That shows how Chahar has developed with every passing match, and he will be a major threat come the final.
Another player with loads of impact this season has been Shivam Dube. The all-rounder has just three fifties to his name this season, but it sure feels like the 29-year-old has done more than that. Indeed, he has.
✍🏽 Petition to rename Mr. Shivam Dube to Mr. Blitzkrieg
— JioCinema (@JioCinema) May 20, 2023
Dube understands the situation of the game, and coming to bat in those middle overs helps his case, enabling him to play those important cameos that have now become a huge part of T20 cricket. Not just that, but Dube has also finished games for CSK this season every now and then.
Dube’s ability to attack spin gives him an added advantage. Time and again, Dube has mercilessly smashed spinners for sixes, averaging 177 against them this season.
And a special mention to Matheesha Pathirana, the Sri Lankan speedster who decimates opposition at will. With 17 wickets from 11 matches, the 20-year-old has taken the IPL by storm and will only look to cause further damage on Sunday against a strong opposition.
Win the IPL or not, CSK, once termed ‘Dad’s Army’, have once again proved that they are back among IPL’s elite (Not that they weren’t) and in some style. This season, especially, the ‘comeback kings’ have been more like ‘kings of consistency’, courtesy some clinical performances throughout the season.
IPL 2023, one of the more memorable editions that witnessed more 200-plus totals scored and more matches go down to the wire than ever before, ended with Chennai Super Kings beating Gujarat Titans in the final to win their fifth title.
Ravindra Jadeja had a love-hate relationship with CSK fans for the better part of IPL 2023. In the end, they would all cheer for him as one as the all-rounder's heroics would guide the MS Dhoni-led side to a thrilling victory over GT in the final.
MS Dhoni was asked the all-important question after leading Chennai Super Kings to a five-wicket victory over Gujarat Titans in the IPL 2023 final, and his answer filled fans with hope of this not being his final appearance in the yellow jersey.