CHENNAI: When the victorious Chennai Super Kings team lined up for the customary photo-op in Dubai on Friday, it wasn’t just the players and support staff. The families of all the players -- reserves included -- were called up as Team CSK celebrated at the end of a long journey. Or was it just the beginning?
Captain MS Dhoni said after their win over KKR in the IPL 2021 final that they would look to build a core that would last them for the next 10 years. It may seem that the team will forego their ‘old is gold’ theory and build a side around youth. But that’s not the case.
One understands that in the numerous discussions that Dhoni had with his team about the next auctions during the course of the IPL, it was decided that CSK would try to retain some of their super seniors -- even if it is from the auctions -- who have performed so brilliantly for a decade.
“Ravindra Jadeja and Ruturaj Gaikwad are the two players who will be retained, come what may…Dhoni is seriously looking at the retention rules and if it is three players, he could be the third. But players like Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis or even the 38-year-old Dwayne Bravo will be targeted by CSK, along with the likes of Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar,” a source close to the developments told TOI.
Dhoni, himself, had left it ambiguous at the prize distribution ceremony saying he “hadn’t left yet” when the host spoke about his legacy. Among others, while 37-year-old Faf played a number of match-winning knocks including the final on Friday, the likes of Moeen Ali, Bravo and Ambati Rayudu played crucial hands along the course of the tournament.
The only superstar whose CSK career might be over is Suresh Raina. The left-hander’s form has taken a nose-dive and his fitness, too, has been a concern. With two new teams coming up, it may not be a surprise if the left-hander finally lands in one of those, provided he wants to keep on playing. It was when CSK were returning to the IPL fold in 2018 after a two-year ban that Dhoni went against popular opinion and decided to bank on seniors who had “been there, done that”. It paid him rich dividends as CSK won two of the four titles and came within one run of winning another.
“We don’t get too deep into analytics and numbers, we go with gut feel and developing relationships with players. It’s old school but it works for us,” coach Stephen Fleming said.
While sticking with experience was the cornerstone of CSK’s success, it is the feeling of family within the group that also played its part. Robin Uthappa, who played the last four matches mentioned about that, saying how the management takes care of the players, even those who are not necessarily part of the playing XI, right through the year.
Dhoni, too, in his vote of thanks to the team after the match, spoke about the importance of the players who were not in the playing XI. “Dhoni said that had it been any other franchise, there are quite a few players in the CSK reserves who would have walked into the XI,” a source said.