The ‘Dad’s Army’ moniker has chased Chennai Super Kings throughout the IPL season. The Chennai franchise, which put its faith on experience rather than youth, has stumped its detractors who had made much hullabaloo about its senior statesmen at the start of the season.
Seven 30-above players were part of CSK’s playing eleven in the final and two of them — Shane Watson (36 years and 225 days) and Suresh Raina (31 years and 62 days)— were the stars of the show.
READ: The Super Kings story
While Watson hammered a match-winning century, Raina played a knock of 32 to ensure that the Super Kings was in the game.
Riding on vast experience, the 30-plus cricketers have actually been able to carve out a niche for them in this edition of the tournament. Interestingly, quite a number of these players have either exited international cricket or are quite close to doing so. But donning the yellow, they have made it a point to make their presence felt.
Faith and persistence
The best example could be of Watson ’s. The seasoned all-rounder, who featured for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the previous edition of the IPL, could only score 71 runs and grabbed five wickets from eight games. But this season, he amassed 555 runs at a strike rate of 154.59. This included two fifties and two centuries.
Watson — despite hanging up his boots from international cricket — has regularly featured in the other T20 leagues, namely the Pakistan Super League and the Big Bash League. And staying in the thick of things has actually helped him deliver the goods.
It’s a similar story for Faf du Plessis . Even though the South Africa Test captain is not the one who features in every other league, regular cricket at the highest level has prepared him well for the shortest version of the game as well.
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The other overseas star, Dwayne Bravo , has been out of the international reckoning for years but you would find him in almost every franchise-based leagues. That, many have observed, has helped him in adjusting to the conditions and has even helped him keep his game on par with the youngsters.
But how is it that Chennai has been able to get the best out of the 30-plus campaigners?
Preference for experience
Irfan Pathan, who has actually been with the Chennai Super Kings in the past, believes that the Chennai outfit has always preferred seniors over youngsters — a strategy that has worked wonders for the side. “CSK has always banked on experience and that is a reason they are successful. Some teams rely on youngsters. That actually is a case where you have to wait and watch. There is a risk factor involved,” Pathan says.
But CSK, he believes, has gone for the horses for courses policy, something that has helped the side immensely. “They back a player for two years. That has been the team’s strategy. They know experience is invaluable. Experience teaches you how to overcome difficult situations,” Pathan, who was with the team in 2015, explains.
And perhaps, no one knows it better than its captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The erstwhile India skipper now plays only shorter formats of the game and that helps him focus solely on this brand of cricket. The enviable record of leading the team from the front has proved why Dhoni is still the preferred choice.
Amid speculations that Dhoni is nearing the end, the 36-year-old has shunned the odds and finished off games in his typical style this season.
Another factor that has worked in its favour is that it has been able to maintain its core team intact. With Dhoni leading the pack, the side has been able to keep Bravo, du Plessis, Suresh Raina in the scheme of things, and that has yielded results.
After being out of the national side for a while, Raina returned to the shortest format of the game earlier this year and there has been no look back since.
Chennai, perhaps, calculated the moves right and made the most of it. If most of the other sides settled for young guns, Chennai stacked the team mostly with guys who have spent years in the middle. “Experience does come in handy, and the management of CSK understands it,” as Pathan puts it.
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The fact that it invested on Ambati Rayudu — aged 32 years and 127 days — also explains the fact that the franchise prefers taking the road less preferred.
And Rayudu has returned the favours by delivering for the team.
Perhaps, that’s what makes CSK’s win so special. Despite having the most number of 30-plus cricketers in its ranks, it has challenged the opponents and has been able to dare and dream.
Interestingly, had Kedar Jadhav been available throughout the season, Chennai Super Kings would have had eleven players who are aged 30 or above in its squad. But that did not happen as the Maharashtra all-rounder was ruled out of the tournament just after the first match.
But the ten other recruits of his age have ensured that the ‘Dad’s Army’ gave the youth-based sides a run for their money and helped Chennai return to the IPL fold on a winning note.
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