A franchise like no other, CSK’s success story is built on trust and hunch

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16 Oct 2021 | 07:25 AM
authorBastab K Parida

A franchise like no other, CSK’s success story is built on trust and hunch

The 2021 season would go down as CSK's greatest ever

“What a waste of an auction” - Srijith Gopal, a die-hard CSK fan, left the newsroom in frustration, kicking the bean bag lying next to him. For me, it was one of the distinct images of the 2018 IPL auction - one that symbolised the overall narrative floating around CSK’s “epic failure” to seize the day on their return from the two-year ban. If on that day, anyone would have predicted Chennai Super Kings living through all of this and ending their four-year cycle with two trophies and three final appearances, well, this mere space is not for you. Better try your luck in a Royal Casino.

Cricket is a game of probabilities. More so the T20 format, where the odds are more evenly stacked and fortunes can swing in a blink of an eye. In a format where youthful exuberance decodes your approach, you need to be proactive. Yet, Chennai Super Kings emerged as the anomaly, standing as an oasis of calm when the world was calling for their head. They made a caricature of all fragmental ideas to emerge as the flagbearer of the tournament. That’s why the 2021 season would go down as CSK's greatest season ever. It is the only season which they hadn't started as favourites.

“We have had a number of finals, but crossing the line is what you want to conquer,” Fleming said in the presentation ceremony. “There has been a bit of criticism about the age of players in our side, but the players have stepped up. We value youth, but the experience is very important. We don't go too deep into the numbers, analytics, but are a team more on instincts. Yes, we are a bit old school in that sense but it works for us in this group.”

Often in T20 cricket, it is advised to trust data and match-ups more than instincts because it, more often than not, pays dividends. You exactly know how to use a player and when to use a player, thus taking the improbabilities out of action. But Chennai knew that a side as contradictory as theirs needed to strangle the oppositions by using depth and drawing inspiration from their experiences. They had done that more than anyone else in the IPL history and just needed to replicate the same, once again. It helped that they had a captain as good as MS Dhoni and a coach as calm as Fleming.

“Not letting the opposition in is something we consciously wanted to improve. I hope CSK in the coming years will be known for that. We don't really talk a lot. It's more one-on-one. Our practice sessions are more like a meeting session also. People are more open that way. The moment you talk in a team room there is a bit of pressure,” Dhoni said, encapsulating the essence of the win in an apt fashion.

To understand how CSK’s unique philosophy has contributed to their consistency, it is imperative we take a look at the very tangible aspects of it. For the kind of season they had in 2020, they would have been forgiven for letting go of many laggards and hitting the refresh button even in a mini-auction year. But they just made some minor course corrections and hit the ground running from the very first game. Nobody was pushed out and the new entrants are made to feel secure in every way possible.

“They (CSK) create a very secure environment within the group and there's a lot of clarity and communication within the support staff and the players and that really helps in building a secure group. I believe it’s your players who are not playing in the eleven that really create the atmosphere within the group and they make sure that they look after the players who are not playing in the eleven and I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways of our success in IPL," Robin Uthappa said.

Uthappa’s words reflect a culture that CSK have managed to imbibe over the years. It is common knowledge that India Cements, the primary owner of the conglomerate, don’t interfere in the team’s cricketing affairs and have completely left it to the group of Dhoni, Fleming, Balaji, and Hussey to take care of. They take the calls and back their judgment even if the world is against them. Contrary to what the public would like to believe, every franchise is a private entity and they don’t owe anyone any explanation, and thus CSK stuck with their own idea to replicate a success formula. 

As this four-year term has come to an end, there is nothing more for CSK to reflect on. The future is always uncertain, especially with a new core set to take over. However, what will remain is the idea and a culture that they leave behind. It is having that belief and faith which will ultimately decide the course for CSK’s next decade. Can we all have a front seat, please?

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Chennai Super Kings vs Kolkata Knight RidersIndian Premier League, 2021Chennai Super KingsMS DhoniDeepak ChaharShardul ThakurRobin Uthappa

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