Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Sunday (1st November 2020) said that Chennai Super Kings' "core group" of players is set for overhaul after the franchise finished out of the IPL playoff bracket for the first time in 11 appearances.
CSK crushed Kings XI Punjab by nine wickets to end their worst-ever IPL season on a positive note, with Ruturaj Gaikwad's third successive half-century providing hope for a bright future.
A league-stage exit is a first for the three-time champions and one IPL's most successful franchises.
"We need to slightly change our core group and look for the next 10 years," Dhoni said after the team's final league game.
"At the start of the IPL, we made a team and it served well. There comes a time where you have to shift a bit, hand it over to the next generation."
Dhoni, 39, vowed that his team will come back strongly in the next season.
"We'll come back stronger, that's what we are known for."
The World Cup-winning captain fuelled IPL retirement rumours by handing over his signed jerseys to Kolkata Knight Riders players after his team's victory on Thursday.
But, at the toss for Sunday's game, Dhoni himself confirmed that he will be there next season.
"Definitely not" said Dhoni when asked by former New Zealand pacer Danny Morrison if the game against Kings XI Punjab was his last for CSK.
"(The jerseys) maybe they thought I'm retiring," he said at the presentation ceremony.
Coming back to the campaign, he acknowledged that it was a very difficult one with the team losing eight of their 14 matches.
"It was a difficult campaign. We committed a lot of errors. The last four games were a template of where we would like to be.
Dhoni accepted that the team didn't play to its full potential.
"I don't think we played to the full potential. If you are lagging too much, it becomes very difficult to push yourself and come up with performances. Very proud the way they played their cricket. It would have been very tough 6-7 games.
"You won't want to be in a dressing room that is not really enjoying cricket. You want to keep coming up with different ideas but if the dressing room atmosphere is not happy, it becomes very tough.
"A lot depends on what the BCCI decides upon the auction. This has been a tough year. This is one of the seasons where most of the teams played well."
The 23-year-old Gaikwad stood out again with his fine strokeplay and temperament and Dhoni was full of praise for the batsman.
"Whenever we have seen Rutu bat, he's somebody who has done well in net sessions. But we were not able to see him in games. Then he got Covid, and even after 20 days he was not fit. He didn't get time for us to gauge...
"... That was one of the main reasons we kept going with Faf and Watson. It didn't work. But that's the point where you go with the experienced players."
We struggled to get combination right in absence of Indian batsmen: Fleming
Head coach Stephen Fleming admitted that they struggled to get their batting combination right during the first leg of the IPL, resulting in their maiden ouster from the tournament before the playoff stages.
While the ever-dependable Suresh Raina opted out due to personal reasons, young Gaikwad, who scored a hat-trick of fifties in their last three games, was sidelined by COVID-19 initially.
"We had some challenges around the balance of the side. We have some setbacks, players leaving and COVID and we struggled really to find a combination suiting the conditions," Fleming said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
"At the start, we played our first three games in each of the venues. We did well in the first game but then got exposed in the couple of games.
"We felt we had holes in the team and then its all about trying to fill those spots. It just didn't quite click. The start of the tournament was incredibly frustrating," Fleming said after CSK finished the campaign on 12 points.
"We were in trouble without our Indian batters and we had to fill those gaps with international players."
Fleming was full of praise for Gaikwad and described the young right-hander as the next big thing for CSK as well as Indian cricket.
"He (Gaikwad) is a big story. We couldn't play him earlier, the COVID really knocked him around. We knew how good he was. One of the disappointment was that he was sick and the fact he hung around for so long," he said.
Fleming said that COVID-19 had physically impacted Ruturaj greatly.
"People underestimate what it (COVID) does to a player, physically as well as mentally. We tried to get him into the game really early on We always had in mind that he was going to be a key player.
"He played four games in a row and took his opportunity which is a testament of his ability. We are really pleased and now he is big candidate first going forward."
Fleming said he was delighted with the way CSK played in the second half of the league despite knowing that they are out of the playoffs' reckoning.
"We stuck together really well and one of the focus was we keep getting better. We are lot more settled now and that's the reflection of our last three games.
"Obviously, the pressure had changed as well. When you re out of the tournament it changes the mental aspect of the side. We played with a bit of freedom and played how we can play," he said.