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Why CSK's return to the IPL has lived up to the hype

CSK's return in 2018 for the 11th edition of the IPL has undoubtedly given fans multiple instances of nostalgia and they did it.

Last updated: 02.06.2018
CSK after 2 years ban restored their fans confidence and Won IPL 2018 | Sports Social Blog

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Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are probably the most loved.. no, scratch that. They ARE the most loved franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Even when the team got involved in a scandal that led to its suspension for two years from the IPL in 2015, the love that poured in for the Men in Yellow was simply unbelievable. CSK's return in 2018 for the 11th edition of the IPL has undoubtedly given fans multiple instances of nostalgia. Be it the repeat of an Indo-Australian pair opening the batting, this time around with the explosive veteran, Shane Watson and the experienced Ambati Rayudu (in most of the games), typical nail-biting, last over finishes by 'Captain Cool' MS Dhoni or Dwayne Bravo's dance moves, the team has given fans much to cheer about.  There was no "Homecoming", however, as the Men in Yellow played just one game at the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, a last-over win against Kolkata Knight Riders, before all their home games were shifted to Pune due to political issues.

But, let's leave out all the controversies, and focus on the good, shall we? CSK's return had been the talking point during the months leading up to the tournament, and the hype that was generated in these months was unreal, even as Rajasthan Royals' return took a backseat. Below are some reasons explaining why the hype is well and truly justified:-


1. The batting department:

CSK, without doubt, boasted of the best batting line-up in IPL 11. With experience, power and depth, the batting department is one other teams would envy. Shane Watson's stellar showing in the Big Bash saw CSK pick him and he continued the good form in Yellow too, barring a few hiccups. Ambati Rayudu, who has been around in the IPL scene for quite a long time, was a surprise package this year, with some brilliant stroke-play, consistency and timing, wherever he played for the team.

Suresh Raina did not have his best year, considering his brilliance at No.3 in almost every season of the IPL he's played in, but he too came up with a his share of good knocks to cross 400 runs, like every other season he has played in. Sam Billings and Faf du Plessis also came up with decent performances when the team needed it, though their inconsistency meant CSK shuffled between the two constantly, in the line-up. While Billings won the game for CSK with a half-century against Kolkata, du Plessis played a lone fighting hand, his knock securing a spot for the Men in Yellow in the final at the end of Qualifier 1 itself.

MS Dhoni's move to promote himself up the order was one that benefited the team in more ways than one. His calm-headed, but explosive approach left several teams wondering what hit them, as his shots found their way into the crowd much more often this season than in the past. Dwayne Bravo has performed when called upon, but Ravindra Jadeja has struggled to make use of the opportunities given to him, but his bowling was brilliant in the final games of the season. On the whole, though, CSK is the owner of an excellent batting line-up that can decimate any opposition on its day. The fact that 4 players from the team (Shane Watson, Ambati Rayud, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni) scored more than 400 runs is just a testament to the statement.

2. Proven match-winners:

CSK has not always come up with brilliant, all-round team performances and many a time, the team has been left in dire straits, needing a miracle to get something out of the game. It is in these situations that you need gutsy match-winners. And CSK, in the past, and now, has always possessed such players.

In the very first match this season, CSK were put up against defending champions, Mumbai Indians. The team from Chennai hadn't struck a rhythm and the batting failed miserably against some quality bowling. That was when Dwayne Bravo decided to take matters into his own hands. With no batsmen to support him in the other end, the West Indian took Mumbai's fast bowlers apart, smashing them to all parts of the ground, leading CSK to the doorstep of victory, which an injured Kedar Jadhav completed in the final over to signal CSK's return to the premier T20 competition.

Against Kolkata, too, in the sole match at Chennai, Sam Billings came up with an inspired half century after the top order had given a decent start, before Bravo and Jadeja sealed the win with some wonderful striking in the death. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going". And rest assured, CSK have plenty of players who follow that motto.

3. Combining experience and experimentation:

During the IPL auction, most CSK fans were taken aback by the decisions made by the head coach, Stephen Fleming and his team. They chose to largely compromise on youngsters and promise and instead, go for the older, experienced lot of players, with fewer youthful players. This left the fans wondering what this would mean for the team going into the tournament. And it would definitely not be wrong to say the decisions made have paid rich dividends for the team.

Not only has the invaluable experience that players like Shane Watson and Dwayne Bravo helped the team cross the line in situations involving high pressure, which many youngsters tend to crumble under, they have also helped the fringe players with their insights.

Lungisani Ngidi is a brilliant future prospect for South Africa, as is Deepak Chahar for India,  and both justified the faith shown in them by CSK in the outings they featured in. Imran Tahir and Harbhajan Singh steadily helped in controlling the run flow in the middle overs and also picked up wickets at crucial junctions, making it easier for the likes of Bravo and Ngidi to bowl in the death. David Willey, too, was impressive in the game against RCB, while the erratic Shardul Thakur also displayed glimpses of quality by picking up important wickets in crucial encounters. The batting predominantly boasted of veterans and all of them showcased brilliance and exuberance in the manner they destroyed oppositions, leaving little to be changed or debated about in that respect.

4. Nerve-wracking finishes:

This has been a characteristic feature of the Men in Yellow right from the first season. Almost every fan of CSK will remember the game against RCB where Albie Morkel plundered 28 runs of Virat Kohli in the 19th over, the one against the same opposition when RP Singh overstepped while bowling the final delivery of the game or the match against Kings XI when an unusually aggressive Dhoni guaranteed CSK a place in the Playoffs, with Irfan Pathan facing some severe treatment.

The Men in Yellow kept this trend going in IPL 11 too, and yet again RCB was on the receiving end, even though they scored 200+ runs, with Dhoni and Rayudu outplaying the opposition - yet another last over finish after CSK had left it late against both the Knight Riders and the Mumbai Indians. Each of these matches left fans sweating profusely and breathing heavily. Maybe CSK matches should have a health advisory in the future before they start because they are definitely not for those with a weak heart. Add this to the fact that many of their matches had been scheduled for weekends, the grounds they played in were filled to over-flowing and at homes, families would have been seated on the sofas, wiping the sweat off their forehead and not moving an inch while the matches enters the last over. Phew!

5. Ability to adapt:

It is completely just to say CSK had its fair share of problems this season. The kickoff of these was the shifting of the side's home matches from Chennai to Pune. It was extremely visible from the auctions that the management selected players such as Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir and Harbhajan Singh keeping the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium's slow wicket in mind, but the shift to Pune meant the team needed their pace bowlers to rise to the occasion.

And boy, did they do that? The pace trio of Lungi Ngidi, Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur delivering the goods consistently. While Chahar pushed the run rate down in the PowerPlay overs, Thakur picked up wickets at the death despite conceding runs at more than 9 an over. Ngidi was prolific at both ends and was definitely one of the finds of the season. Apart from this, the batting order too clicked and the MCA stadium at Pune was the scene of several high-scoring games, with the Men in Yellow securing wins in all the 6 games they played at the stadium.

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