For a successful sporting franchise, being forced into a situation where its carefully assembled team could be dismantled is a nightmarish situation to deal with. It is what defending champion Chennai Super Kings had to face ahead of the 2022 IPL mega auction.
The auctions can make or break campaigns and the teams have to be on their toes to deal with dynamic situations. This year, with two new teams joining the competition, it meant even more challenges. CSK bowling coach L. Balaji gave some insight into the team’s auction strategies and preparations ahead of its title defence.
Speaking to Sportstar , Balaji said, “It is again a new journey. One journey finished after the last four-year cycle where we had a good time with two titles. But our philosophy is going to be the same and we believe in our core components and that has made us what we are as a franchise.”
Despite the vagaries of the auctions, Balaji was happy with the squad the team managed to assemble saying, “an auction is a difficult place but we have retained four major core players and we have managed to pull back some of our major resources.”
CSK continued to retain its faith in players who have proven for the franchise with eight of the 11 likely first-team members staying with the side for the next cycle.
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“We got the kind of team we wanted and we are happy. We knew it was going to be a tough auction with two more teams and we knew players are going into different teams because the needs are higher,” added the former India and Tamil Nadu pacer. Even as it retained its core, it couldn't get someone like Faf du Plessis despite going for the South African hard in the auctions. “If you as a team can even achieve a 50-60 % strike rate in getting your first choice players, that will be a good auction,” Balaji explained.
“Everyone wants to have the best players but the dynamics and challenges of auctions are difficult. We are very happy they have gone with high respect and demand. They are prospering and are great ambassadors for CSK,” he added.
While the auctions are the starting point, Balaji pointed out that assembling a good crop of players alone isn't a recipe for success.
“Camaraderie and team culture are important. It is a team sport and not an individual sport. We are more than a sporting team when it comes to emotions, relationships and trust.”
Unlike in 2018 when the team was picked for conditions in Chennai, there is the uncertainty of when the IPL will revert to a home-and-away format. When asked about the challenges of picking a side in these circumstances, the 40-year-old Balaji said, “Those are external factors but that is why first and foremost, it is important to have your own players, who believe in your brand of cricket, who can do well in any conditions and have done it again and again.”
“You can't get 25 good players in one team. That is where MS (Dhoni) is good at. He has made the team on the field very good. It is a process that starts at the auction but the journey starts on the field. At the end of the day, names have to reflect correctly on the field and we have to maintain a good dressing room,” he added.
With the auctions done and dusted, the team has started its preparations this time in Surat instead of Chennai. “The red-soil wickets here in Surat will be similar to the conditions we will get in Mumbai. It is important to get acclimated to the conditions and Surat is only four hours away from Mumbai,” explained the former CSK player.
“We normally start one month early and do our process of getting to know each other, spending time together and not show up just one week before the tournament. It is very important for team culture,” Balaji emphasised while signing off.