Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Chennai Super Kings - Two time champions or Three time runner-ups ??

The rising popularity of the T20, the newest form of cricket coupled with India’s win in the inaugural T20 World Cup lead to the birth of one of the richest sporting leagues on the globe – the Indian Premier League. The rules and regulations were put in place and then the teams were drafted based on the lines of the EPL player auctions. On paper, Deccan Chargers Hyderabad was considered to be the strongest teams comprising the hardest hitters in the cricketing circuit. There were numerous squads, powerful enough to lay claim to the inaugural Championship. Then there was a certain Chennai Super Kings lead by the national team skipper MS Dhoni who had proved his mettle as a respectable leader by winning the first T20 World Cup in 2007.

Over the six seasons of the tournament, CSK is the only team to not have changed their Captain. They have emerged as the most consistent and well performing team over the course of the league. They have qualified for the last four every single time. They have managed to win IPL twice in 2010 and 2011. In addition they have also won the Champions League once. But despite their brilliance as a team throughout the every tournament, CSK seemed to have faltered one step away from glory. Their dominance has been tarnished by three losses in the finals of the championship.

The Wins

IPL 2010, the 3rd edition…
Chennai were made to work hard and the 3rd edition of the IPL turned out be a very close competition. 4 teams finished with 14 points after the conclusion of the group stage. Chennai however just managed to grab on to a spot in the semifinals. They defended a respectable total of 168/5 against Mumbai Indians and won the championship for the first time comfortably by 22 runs.

IPL 2011, the 4th edition…
In the next edition, Chennai ended the group stage with the highest net run rate (+0.443), winning 9 games. They met one time runner-ups RCB in the finals. The in-form batsmen piled up a massive 205/5 – the highest total in the finals of the IPL. Murali Vijay missed his century by just 5 runs. In reply, RCB could muster mere 147/8. This was CSK’s 2nd win.

The Losses

IPL 2008, the 1st edition…
During the inaugural season, they met the table toppers Rajasthan Royals in the finals. RR impressed one and all with their teamwork and discipline under mentor and skipper Shane Warne. Rajasthan decimated the oppositions winning 11 of the 14 matches. Rajasthan had defeated CSK on both the occasions they faced off during the group stage. Batting first Chennai score 163/5 banking on Raina’s 43(30). Rajasthan had a nervous chase, but managed to sneak out a win thanks to Yusuf Pathan’s valiant 56(39) on the last ball with 3 wickets to spare.

IPL 2012, the 5th edition…
CSK entered the finals once again for the 4th time in the 5th edition in 2012. They faced a resurgent and reincarnated Kolkata Knight Riders in the finals. Chennai put up steep total of 192/3 with contributions from Suresh Raina who scored a quickfire 73(38) and Hussey’s 54(43). However the brave-heart Manvinder Bisla blasted 89 off 48 balls to foil Chennai’s celebration plans. It was Chennai’s 2nd loss in the finals.

IPL 2013, the 6th edition…
CSK played the finals the very next year for a record 5th time. They dominated the tournament and entered the finals as table toppers. They met an equally dominating Mumbai Indians. Fireworks were expected given two giants of the game were facing off, but instead the finals turned out to be a low-score affair as Mumbai finished their innings at 148/9. Pollard top scored with 60*. It was supposed to be a cakewalk for the famed CSK batting lineup. Shockingly, the batsmen faltered when it mattered the most. Skipper Dhoni’s defiant innings of 63* was in vain as his team fell 24 runs short of the target.

Now if we analyze all the finals Chennai has played, one thing can be said is that Suresh Raina has been their trump-card. He top scored for his team in 2008 (43 off 30), 2010 (57 off 35) and 2012 (73 off 38). Out of the 5 finals they have played, they have batted first 4 times and won twice with same number of losses. They faced a dominating side in RR in the inaugural edition and failed to defend 163. In the 5th edition, they failed to defend a formidable score of 192 runs. They failed to build the pressure and leaked runs. The third time, they lost to the underachievers Mumbai Indians as they failed to chase a comparatively low target under 150 runs.

Undoubtedly, CSK has been the most consistent teams in the league and certainly one of the strongest. The fact that they have played 5 out of the 6 finals speaks volumes of their commitment, temperament and discipline as a team under an able leader in MS Dhoni. They have been dominating and fought hard when the chips were down. But instead of referring to them as three bad tournaments, it would be fair to call them three bad days. Chennai Super Kings are kings in the truest sense of the word. They are champions, two time champions.

This article has also been published on Sportskeeda.

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