Chennai Super Kings – Where Champions Are Made.
There’s a well known saying that goes, ‘Champions are made, not born’. Chennai Super Kings are a prime example of that adage. Here is a team that comprises of an eclectic mix of players from different cultures, languages and experiences, who when playing under the same banner, manage to win trophies regularly. So, what makes them different from the other 9 teams who can boast of similar compositions?
CSK’s march to their 2nd consecutive title began well before the first ball of IPL-4 was bowled. When it was announced that two teams were going to be added to the tournament and that there were going to be fresh auctions, CSK and Mumbai Indians might have been the only two teams who would have felt a touch of frustration with the whole thing. It took them three seasons to find a winning balance to their side, and now it looked like they had to start all over again. It was then they made a decision, which not only ensured that three seasons of hard work wouldn’t go to waste, but it also made sure that they would retain a loyal fan base.
It was a simple but effective plan. Retain a maximum of four players, which was allowed according to the rules. Then, in the auctions, fight hard to retain as many CSK players, as possible. Sure enough, after retaining MS Dhoni, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina and Albie Morkel, the management fought hard to get the band back together. There were some notable losses in the likes of Murali and Balaji, but they managed to get some good additions to the squad like Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Suraj Randiv and Scott Styris. The message to the other teams at the end of the auctions was clear – We know what players we want, and we have got them.
That’s why this victory will be special to the team. Each player brought something to the table, and made CSK a winning unit. It is one thing to have all the big names of the sport in a team, but it is completely another matter to forge these talents into one single champion side. At the heart of CSK’s 2nd IPL triumph, was a core of players who complemented each other’s skills and brought an ‘X’ factor to the side. Here’s a look at the men who brought the title home:
The old warrior
Michael Hussey is all old school. He can identify more with someone like Rahul Dravid than a Chris Gayle. In a tournament featuring some of the world’s finest T20 openers, he stood out for a bloody minded focus on getting the runs through well placed singles and twos, with the occasional big shots. On the field, he can put some of the younger players to shame with his commitment; but his value to the side goes beyond his performance on the ground. In a short time, he has proved to be a major inspiration for the likes of Vijay and Badrinath, who have benefitted from his experience and insight. That’s what sets him apart in the side – a selfless player who when not winning matches of his blade, inspires others to do the same.
The young tyro
Murali Vijay can be one of those infuriating bunch of players, who will perform well in the IPL, but when it comes to the international scene, fail to find that same consistency; but when he does perform, he does so in style. He was a major part of CSK’s revival in the last season and played a winning hand in the Champions League victory as well. This season, he had a stop-start kind of tournament with some fine knocks interspersed throughout the last 8 weeks; but when it came to the big day, he raised his game again. While everyone was waiting for fireworks from Dhoni or Gayle, Vijay stole the show with his trademark big hits and intelligent running with Hussey. With that tournament winning innings, he repaid the management for their faith in retaining him before the auctions, and also served notice to others, that he is still one of the finer openers in the country.
Suresh Raina is not nicknamed ‘the Talent’ for nothing. One of the finest young batsmen in the world, he is the only batsmen to rack up more than 400 runs in each of the IPLs so far. He can bat, bowl, field and if needed, step in as captain too. After a slow start in the early part of the tournament, he managed to strike a semblance of consistency towards the end, culminating in a blistering knock against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first play-off which sealed CSK’s place in the final. In addition to all these, he brings much more to the side. If Dhoni is the head, Raina is the heart of the team. Players love to talk about ‘enjoying each others’ success’; Raina embodies it. When an opposition wicket falls, watch out for Raina. Within seconds, he will be all over the bowler or fielder, hugging them or ruffling their hair, and just lifting the spirit of the squad in a general sense. Now that he is the stand in captain for the ODI team in the tour to West Indies, be prepared for more of it.
It will be an understatement to say that MS Dhoni is having a good year. He entered this year’s IPL fresh off winning the World Cup of his own blade, and proceeded to prove that he has still got the Midas touch. In the very first game against the Kolkata Knight Riders, he won the game with some sharp captaincy; and throughout the rest of the tournament, he chipped in with some typically bruising knocks and remained safe behind the stumps; but it is his leadership which makes him a vital part of CSK. His ability to stay calm and think logically under pressure ensures that CSK is always one step ahead of the opposition, and his team mates are secure in the knowledge that no matter how dire the situation may be for them, they got one of the world’s finest skippers who’s got their back. If CSK are to become the Manchester United of cricket, according to R Ashwin’s hopes, MS Dhoni remains the best bet of making that happen.
Albie Morkel might not be in the radar of the South African selectors, but when it comes to CSK, he is the resident all-rounder of the side. With the ball, he is a steady new ball operator who can get crucial wickets or keep the run rate down. With the bat, he provides firepower along with Dhoni, which is a major reason why the openers don’t have to always go slam-bang at the start of the innings. Of all the foreign players in the squad, he is the one constant from season one who has proved his value to the side time and again. For CSK to remain a potent force in the coming years, he will be expected to be a vital cog in the team’s fortunes.
Ravichandran Ashwin might be the only bowler in the world, who could make a cut-throat gesture to Gayle and get away with it. He can also lay claim to being the only bowler who managed to keep the big Jamaican quiet and get his wicket as an added bonus; but his importance to the side goes beyond just one scalp. In the span of two years, he has shot to prominence as one of India’s finest spinners in the shorter formats, if not the finest; and he’s got the IPL to thank for it. While he was known around the domestic circuit as a canny off spinner, the IPL gave him the chance to showcase his skills in front of a wider audience and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He played major roles in CSK’s resurgence in the last season and the Champions League triumph. To prove that he is not a one-season wonder, he maintained the same degree of control and skill throughout this tournament which culminated in a match winning performance in the final; and this was after a potentially life threatening blow to his head in the play-off game. In this manner, he has proved that even without Murali, CSK has a classy off spinner to spearhead their attack.
Doug Bollinger was not really a household name in India, when he made his debut for CSK midway through last season. Since then, he has come a long way, establishing himself as a fan favorite among the legions of CSK fans, and led the bowling attack with venom, which has been vital to all three triumphs of the Super Kings over the last year. Till he came on to the scene for CSK, it was well known that the team was light in the bowling department; now along with Ashwin, Morkel, Bravo and Jakati, he is part of a well rounded attack which ensures CSK’s dominance in all forms of their game. Whether it is at the start of the innings or at the death, Doug the Rug is hard to get away, and that’s why he is CSK’s most valuable pace bowler.
So, there you have it. These players along with the likes of Saha, Srikkanth, Bravo, Jakati and the others are the reasons why CSK are such a good side. Apart from their own skills as players, they have learnt quickly, how to complement each other and play together as a winning team. While the IPL’s brief history has seen turmoil and upheavals when it comes to other teams, it is nice to see that one team atleast in on its way to establishing itself as one of the finest cricket teams in the world.
Bring on the Champions League!