first_imgAfter Rajasthan Royals (RR) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in Jaipur on April 27, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) became the first team to qualify for the playoffs of IPL 2019. This means that even if CSK lose their remaining two matches of the league stage they will remain in the top 4 of the points table thus entering the last 4 for a record 10th time in succession. Interestingly, CSK are the only team to have made it to the playoffs in each edition (that they have been part of) of the IPL.Ridiculed as ‘Dad’s Army’ due to their aging squad, the above statistic seals CSK’s place as the undisputed leader in the pantheon of the IPL. The Yellow Brigade has over the years won three IPL titles to go along with finishing as runner-ups 4 times.In this day and age of power-hitting and young exuberance in T20s, CSK have found a method amidst all the chaos that surrounds a frenzied tournament like the IPL. Just how CSK have managed to defy all the odds and analyses of T20 cricket and emerge as one of the best T20 teams in the world is not magic but just a combination of sensible cricketing brains working together.There is no doubt that the former Indian captain MS Dhoni is one of the best ever captains seen in white-ball cricket. The fact that Dhoni’s stock as captain rose with the 2007 World T20 triumph seems no coincidence as the celebrated cricketer took India to all the silverware on offer in international cricket. At CSK, Dhoni has been nothing short of a talisman.advertisementBesides keeping a sane head under pressure, Dhoni has time and again trusted his instincts to see his side through the finish line. If there is a batting collapse, call Dhoni and you’re sure to end up with at least a respectable total. If the opposition is going great guns, trust Dhoni to introduce a bowler or tweak the field setting to conjure up a breakthrough. If you need to chase more than 10 runs an over at the death, don’t sweat till Dhoni is at the crease. Deploying a slip and a gully for Virat Kohli in the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore, keeping a leg-slip for Kings XI Punjab skipper R Ashwin earlier this season are all examples of one of the shrewdest of cricket brains at work. And the list goes on. The symbiotic relationship between Dhoni and his IPL franchise is such that it is difficult to imagine CSK without Dhoni. Just in their last match, when Dhoni was out of the team with a fever, CSK surrendered meekly against Mumbai Indians exposing their overdependence on their skipper.Dhoni seems to have created his team in his own image. The likes of Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo have long been CSK regulars. The retention of this core group of players over the years by the franchise seems to have molded them into a solid unit which is just not ready to accept defeat until the last ball is bowled. Again, no prizes for guessing where this attitude comes from!Having the players you want in your team is one thing but extracting the most out of their potential is another. But the Dhoni-Stephen Fleming combination has managed to do just that by backing their players even in the toughest of situations and thus instilling in them the belief that they can be world beaters. Take the case of Shane Watson in IPL 2019. After a hugely successful IPL 2018 where he hit twin centuries and more than 500 runs, the Australian opener was struggling with just 147 runs from CSK’s first 10 matches of the tournament. As the calls to drop him grew louder by the day, Dhoni and Fleming kept their faith in the veteran who promptly repaid it with a scintillating 96 against Sunrisers Hyderabad on April 23. Similarly, Raina, Jadeja and Bravo have all benefitted from the support shown by their captain-coach combine over the years.What has also helped CSK’s fortunes in the IPL is that in Chepauk they have managed to build a fortress which more often than not proves insurmountable for most visiting teams. In 2019, CSK have lost just 1 match out of 6 in Chennai and that loss came against Mumbai Indians in their last match where Dhoni was unavailable. Having built their squad around a number of spinners and medium-pace bowlers, CSK knew that in order to win they would need a spin-friendly track at home. While purists would complain about preparing a track that suits one’s strengths, at the end of the day in a city-based cricket league, unless you don’t win matches at home, you run the risk of losing out on followers and trophies alike.advertisementAll this is fine but what happens when Dhoni hangs up his boots? Well, we don’t really know. But if their last match without Dhoni is anything to go by, the skipper is likely to leave a large gaping hole in the CSK unit. At this point of time, Dhoni seems irreplaceable as a captain and leader of men. As long as he is there at the helm, one should expect CSK to keep emulating their run at the annual tournament. With age catching up slowly but steadily, with not just Dhoni but most of CSK’s star players, the team can’t be faulted for making hay while it lasts. After all, they have already created a legacy to behold and it would be a shame to colour it with speculations and predictions – something which CSK have defied time and again.Also Read | Unfortunate to see so many people going after MS Dhoni: Virat Kohli to India TodayAlso Read | CSK missed MS Dhoni’s presence in run chase: Rohit Sharma after MI winlast_img

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