Chennai Super Kings – from the dead to the supernatural

Subramaniam Badrinath and Shadab Jakati, two-time IPL champions with CSK, talk spirit, self-belief and the magic factor of the yellow army ahead of its seventh final on Sunday.

Team bonding has been the key for Chennai Super Kings this season.   -  PTI

Chennai Super Kings is not just a squad, it is an emotion that has been embracing Tamil pop culture, tradition and people in the Coromandel Coast for a decade. Such is the local connect that even Shane Watson, a new member, got his steps right in the official song. The beat of the anthem is straight out of the movies and the players look like demigods — at par with the film stars.

Beyond their sunglasses, also lies a story of hurt and insult.

The yellow brigade shut shop for two years due to spot-fixing controversy. But CSK is back to where it belongs — the IPL final. The seventh final! The contest that is familiar.

How come CSK manages to fight all obstacles, make a joke out of pressure situations and sit on top every season? Former soldiers-in-yellow Subramaniam Badrinath and Shadab Jakati — who laid their hands on the trophy twice — tell Sportstar about the magic wand.

How every time?

“I think the magic is the atmosphere in the dressing room that is created by the franchise. It is a different atmosphere compared to other teams. I have been a part of three teams, so I know how it is. They make players, especially newcomers and internationals, feel at home,” says Shadab Jakati, the slow left-arm spinner from Goa who wore the yellow jersey in two consecutive finals, in 2010 and 2011.

“The players back each other and they enjoy each others’ success. This is one of the main reasons why CSK has been so successful in the IPL,” adds Jakati.

Adaptation, after serving a two-year ban, was perhaps CSK’s biggest challenge in its comeback season. Keeping the Chepauk wicket in mind, it built a side around spinners but then, obstructions and CSK go hand-in-hand. Political tension forced Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys to move to Pune.

“It was not easy to hit the ground running after two years, but they have been smart enough to hold on to the players who have been a part of CSK. 

“The adaptation after two years has been easy. Moving to Pune had its own challenges, as they picked spinners who would have been ideal at home. But then, they did pretty well. It has been a boon for Ambati Rayudu. The Pune wicket really suited his batting style,” Badrinath observes.

Comfort and self-belief

All teams look after their players and the stay is also at five-star hotels, but Jakati reveals how CSK also treats a player’s family as its own. “The credit also goes to the management as they ensure comfort and luxury in stay and travelling. They even look after our families, which plays a role in the success too,” adds Jakati, still referring to CSK as “we”.

“Once in CSK, always in CSK. I always felt CSK to be home away from home,” he reiterates.

The healthy atmosphere seems to be the reason behind old players like Michael Hussey and Stephen Fleming returning as coaches. “The entire support staff, from the trainer to the physio, has been the same. I expected CSK to reach the finals. Dhoni, leading from the front, is a plus. We deserve to win the tournament,” says Jakati, who is still remembered for taking two consecutive four-fers (4/24 and 4/22) in 2009.

“Dwayne Bravo, Dhoni, Faf du Plessis, Ravindra Jadeja are faces you associate with CSK. When players play for a franchise over a period of time, they associate themselves with the team. That’s where CSK got its support and it rubbed on the performances,” Badrinath adds.

The former Tamil Nadu and India batsman stresses how the management makes players feel like champions. “They have been a great franchise by creating such a conducive atmosphere. In the worst of situations, they gave us confidence that we are champion cricketers. When you play from your heart, you really want to do well and that’s where you get the best out of a player. The self-belief was always right up there for CSK,” he says.

“Whatever sport you play, you are going to face tough situations but when you believe in your abilities and you know that you can get yourself out of these situations, there is nothing like it. That’s where CSK scores above the rest,” he reasons.

Every cricketer automatically becomes a magician in the CSK dressing room. In few years time, the yellow brigade may perhaps be called for supernatural magic shows.

They have almost earned a Harry Houdini kind of a reputation. The renowned American magician is notoriously famous for his jail-break episodes.

You can’t restrict CSK, it will return and grab you by your neck.