Dealing with millions of rupees, franchises do different things in a bid to earn bragging rights in the Indian Premier League, but Chennai Super Kings do it differently. After being ridiculed for investing heavily in a “Dads’ Army”, Super Kings quietly and diligently showed the cricketing world that every move of theirs meant business when they had gone on to complete a fairytale triumph in their comeback season in 2018.
As they continued to back their under-fire experienced players such as Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis to the hilt, Super Kings once again faced criticism for not giving a chance to the youngsters on the bench. But as coach Stephen Fleming made it clear, IPL is no charity. It was the experience of Watson (37 years) and Du Plessis (34 years) and Harbhajan Singh (38 years) that helped CSK get the better of a young and exuberant Delhi Capitals in the Qualifier 2. The six-wicket win was CSK’s 100th in IPL.
Skipper M.S. Dhoni, who knows his team’s strengths and weaknesses and thus marshals his troupe accordingly, makes no bones about having been labelled the “Dads’ Army”. “It doesn’t really bother us. At the end of the day, the fact is that we are all old guys. And you need a bit of age to have the experience on your side. There are positives as well as negatives,” said Dhoni.
Be it their auction policy, backing their players or on-field performance, Super Kings are the epitome of consistency. Sunday’s blockbuster showdown against Mumbai Indians will be their eighth final in their 10 seasons. The two teams — the most successful on having won three titles each — have met each other thrice in finals with Mumbai winning twice (2013 and 2015).
Aussie veteran Watson, who retired from international cricket in 2006, would have been dropped after a string of failures in any other team, but CSK’s different.
The 81-run partnership between du Plessis and Watson on Friday night was CSK’s best opening stand of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The faith CSK continues to show in me is amazing. There’s huge positives about age and experience, and that’s the way CSK have played, from the top with MS and Stephen Fleming. We know what to do in different situations and we’ve made the most of our experience,” added Watson.
Against their nemesis Mumbai, CSK have lost all three meetings this season. Rohit Sharma’s side are a well-rounded unit with a perfect blend of youth and experience. Super Kings definitely have their task cut out on Sunday. Both teams would be eager to go one up in their overall IPL trophy count. “Mumbai have a great team and not too many holes in their team,” said Watson.
South African Du Plessis suggested that CSK know what it takes to win big games. “We didn’t have the best run in the last five or six games, but we do have a lot of confidence as a team that’s won a lot of big games. We drew a lot of strength from that,” he added.