IPL

IPL 2021: Leadership, key to CSK’s success


This was Power Play by M. S. Dhoni. Short of runs in the competition, he still promoted himself in the batting order and surfaced during the all-important climactic phase of Qualifier 1.

For the next few minutes there was mayhem in the middle. Dhoni’s whirlwind unbeaten innings had not just taken Chennai Super Kings home but also broken a sequence of three defeats.

Dhoni backed himself, listened to his instincts and there he was destroying the high quality Delhi Capitals attack.

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Leadership — captaining by example — was the key aspect of CSK’s fourth title triumph.

Tactically, Dhoni is the finest captain in Twenty20 cricket. He comprehends the format like no other, has his finger on the pulse of the game, rings in the bowling changes, narrows down the angles on the field, gradually cuts all escape routes and strangles the opposition into submission.

Winning formula: The relaxed atmosphere created in CSK by Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming — their chemistry fuelled the side — enabled cricketers to express themselves and play with refreshing freedom.   –  Sportzpics / BCCI

 

And the relaxed atmosphere created in CSK by Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming — their chemistry fuelled the side — enabled cricketers to express themselves, play with refreshing freedom.

It was not surprising that the experienced Robin Uthappa, 35, produced match-winning innings of powerful strokeplay in Qualifier 1 and the final. The ambience in CSK was a big factor in unlocking his destructive batting.

“Age is only a number. When we picked Uthappa there was criticism. They said we were signing a 35-year old. But we knew he had experience and was a match-winner,” said CSK CEO K. S. Viswanathan.

Similarly the left-handed Moeen Ali, who has the gift of timing, batted with wonderful fluency, hitting long balls. And when the conditions suited him, he chipped in with his off-spin.

Yet, Moeen was an underperformer with Royal Challengers Bangalore. He was a transformed cricketer with CSK.

The franchise from Chennai and Dhoni know the magic formula of getting the best out of their men. In the past, cricketers such as Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu had turned their career around after joining CSK.

Dhoni’s style of captaincy is not the demanding in-your-face kind. He can be firm without being rude. And he seldom loses his cool.

Like Viswanathan revealed, the team-meetings did not last more than two minutes but Dhoni, in his own, relaxed manner, was able to communicate to each player his role in the team.

It was challenging how CSK recovered from the nadir of last season. Practice was the key. Dhoni wanted the sessions to start early in Dubai; he was the driving force in them, interacting with every player.

So it was not the team-meetings but the practice sessions where Dhoni communicated with his men.

This IPL edition was vital for CSK. It had sensationally triumphed on return to IPL in 2018, but lost narrowly in the final in 2019. The 2020 edition was a disaster, so CSK had to regroup and reinvent itself in 2021.

It was not surprising that the experienced Robin Uthappa, 35, produced match-winning innings of powerful strokeplay in Qualifier 1 and the final. The ambience in CSK was a big factor in unlocking his destructive batting.   –  PTI

 

The revival started with some smart buys at the auction. Moeen, with his multidimensional skills, and Uthappa, with his power hitting, were welcome additions.

Moeen’s off-spin also complemented Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm spin, so CSK’s attack became more complete.

Then came the intensity of the practice sessions. Mentally, Dhoni and CSK were ready for the challenge.

Once the IPL got underway, the opening partnerships between the fleet-footed Ruturaj Gaikwad and the inventive Faf du Plessis provided CSK with a solid platform from which others could fire.

READ – Outplayed by very good CSK – McCullum

Ruturaj was always someone with loads of ability but was laid low at the beginning of 2020 with COVID-19, took a longer time to recover, and when he played in the XI, encountered failures.

It was only in the latter stages of the competition, after CSK had lost out on a play-off berth, that Ruturaj showed glimpses of his ability.

This time he fired from the start. Apart from his footwork — Ruturaj often danced down the wicket — he has the gift of timing.

Light on his feet and perfectly balanced, he sliced open the attacks. It was fitting he took home the Orange Cap for most runs — 635.

Remarkably, du Plessis finished just two runs short of Ruturaj with 633. The South African, a battle-hardened customer, disrupted the rhythm of the attack with strokes, both conventional and unconventional.

The openers played a huge role in CSK’s resurgence. They set up the base, the foundation.

Moeen’s role was critical in the manner he launched into the bowling with a blaze of strokes after the openers had done considerable damage.

And then CSK has so many game changers. The foremost among them being Ravindra Jadeja, with his hectic left-handed batting, tight left-arm spin and sheer brilliance on the field.

CSK was a side with depth and options. Someone like Shardul Thakur could score vital runs down the order.

CSK got its bowling right. In Josh Hazlewood it had an accurate seamer — the Aussie bowled around the off-stump — who could prise out batsmen with subtle movement.

When he got it right, swing bowler Deepak Chahar was a handful. Shardul Thakur, who has the knack of picking wickets, struck with his cross seamers. And the ageless Dwayne Bravo’s pace and length variations never made it easy for the batsmen.

Jadeja and Moeen formed a spin duo of contrasts. CSK had ticked the bowling boxes.

What next for CSK? Well, Dhoni is certain to play for the franchise next season. The coming auction, in January, will be huge with the induction of two new teams.

Knowing CSK, it will act only after it receives the rules for the auction. For instance how many cricketers a franchise can retain?

However, CSK would seek to build a team for the future and some young, talented cricketers, who will be guided by Dhoni, could be roped in.

Already, CSK is the most consistent side in the IPL making it to nine finals. Next season, the men in yellow, the most popular franchise among fans, will be gunning for their fifth title. It would take a brave man to bet against CSK.



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