At the end of Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) final IPL 2023 league game versus the Delhi Capitals at the Arun Jaitley stadium in Delhi, CSK captain MS Dhoni lauded the performances of his bowlers throughout the season, reserving special praise for Tushar Deshpande and Matheesha Pathirana.
Deshpande, 28, is yet to play for India, and Pathirana, 20, has a solitary T20I appearance for Sri Lanka.
“I think the bowlers have also taken the responsibility, Pathirana is quite a natural to [at] bowling at the death but Deshpande has really developed there,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation.
Dhoni has been using the presentations this season as a platform to motivate his players while also ensuring that they do not become complacent when the going is good. Despite his praise for Deshpande at the end of the last league game, Dhoni had called him out after his three no-balls against the Lucknow Super Giants in a hard-fought last-over win. Dhoni’s man-management ability coupled with his constant communication from behind the stumps is often credited for less experienced bowlers shining for the franchise.
Dhoni has been able to do this at CSK with unerring regularity. This season was not the first instance of domestic talent upping their game under the former India captain. The development of Indian bowling talent has been quite consistent from the ranks of CSK. Right from the emergence of players like Manpreet Gony, who played two ODIs for India, and Sudeep Tyagi, who played four ODIs and one T20I, the CSK stable has continually produced bowlers who perform well under pressure.
The emanation of bowling talent isn’t restricted to just medium pacers. The success of CSK in the 2010 and 2011 editions of the IPL was on the back of performances by its two Indian spinners, Shadab Jakati and Ravichandran Ashwin.
In the less successful years for the franchise, between 2012 and 2015, the likes of Mohit Sharma, who went on to represent India at the 2015 ODI World Cup, and Ishwar Pandey, who played for India A, contributed to the team making the Playoffs in each season. Even after the two-year hiatus, Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur, who had made their name playing for the Rising Pune Super Giants, performed well for the franchise, finding a place for themselves in the Indian limited overs teams. Shardul has even made it to the Test team.
This IPL season, CSK sealed its spot in the Playoffs for the 12th time in 14 seasons - the most by any team in IPL history. CSK’s bowling was perceived to be its weaker suit, but the bowling unit has managed to pull its weight through the league stage, despite the injury to lead pacer Chahar, winning eight games en route to the Playoffs. Though the batting performances have been the backbone of their successes this season, the bowling has complemented the batters ably in getting the job done for the team.
The stars of the CSK bowling this season have been the ones with minimal or no international experience. Matheesha Pathirana was drafted in as a replacement player during last year’s IPL and played only twice. Tushar Deshpande, though a regular in his state team, had played less than 15 IPL games before the start of this season. Akash Singh, the left-arm pacer, who was drafted in to replace the injured Mukesh Chowdhury, also bowled well in the PowerPlay, picking up six wickets in the absence of regular PowerPlay bowler Chahar.
An important reason for the success of these domestic talents is the backing that the CSK coaching staff provide. Ever since the team’s inception, players have been given a longer rope and not dropped after a couple of lacklustre performances. The management has often been credited to be involved in the monitoring and development of these players even after the conclusion of the tournament. The continuity in coaching staff over the last 15 years has also ensured consistency in the team philosophy.
The fans of CSK will be hoping that even after their Thala (as Dhoni is fondly referred to by a legion of fans) hangs up his boots, the management and leadership group manage to get the best out of the domestic talent at their disposal and add to their already impressive Playoffs record at least, if not to their envious trophy cabinet.
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