Chennai Super Kings’ Journey: Sweet, more than sour
If there is a franchise in the Indian Premier League that has a cult following, it is the Chennai Super Kings. In fact, it is, in popular opinion, the most liked or at the very least, the ‘least hated’ franchise in the IPL. And it is not hard to pin-point the reasons behind this popularity. The biggest reason unsurprisingly, is former Indian Captain MS Dhoni. His pan-India popularity has unsuspectingly transferred to CSK as well, with a lot of his admirers automatically rooting for the franchise. The other big potential reason has been the stable vibe the team reflects in its functioning, it’s handling of failures and successes that has kept the admirers hooked. The fact that they back their players till the longest time instead of dumping them at the first opportunity they get, has earned them praise all around and has MS Dhoni’s stamp all over it. The team has not been without its share of controversies, the biggest being them getting banned from the IPL for two years in July 2015 for their owners’ alleged involvement in betting. But the team came roaring back into the competition in 2018 and lifted the trophy for the third time.
Chennai Super Kings owner is India Cements and the team is based out of Chennai. After being coached by Kepler Wessels in the first season, CSK has stuck with the same captain coach duo of MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming since 2009. The duo has time and again been credited with maintaining a sense of calm, balance and stability in the side, leading them to being the most successful side of the IPL based on win percentage. These factors have also led them to being the second most valuable franchise of the IPL after Mumbai Indians with a brand value of $104 million as of 2019.
Come 2020 though and other teams are looking as strong on paper if not more and the Mumbai Indians, fresh off winning the title last season would be raring to go at CSK. Both the teams’ rivalry goes back years and they have faced each other in 4 finals, out of which MI has won 3 and CSK has just 1 win to their credit. To add to their woes, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh have pulled out from the Chennai Super Kings squad 2020 due to personal reasons and it will be interesting to see who replaces these two stalwarts because of their incredible records. Suresh Raina boasts 5368 runs in the IPL and is placed second on the all-time run-getters list. Harbhajan Singh on the other hand boasts of 150 wickets with the record for the most dot balls, 1249 to be exact, in 160 matches. The replacements will have their work cut out for them.
A team as consistent as CSK would have a lot of unnoticed records to their name just waiting to be unearthed. So, here we look at some rarely discussed facts about the king of IPL Dhoni’s team, as he is fondly called by his fans.
- MS Dhoni is the longest serving captain in IPL history. He has been the captain of CSK since the tournament’s inception and continues till today. It is hard to imagine Super Kings without the calm energy of Dhoni.
- This team keeps raising the bar for other franchises as they have always been the most consistent in IPL. In fact, Chennai is the only team that has qualified for the playoffs in every season without fail. No team can even come close to this distinction of CSK.
- They enjoy a huge fan following in their home city of Chennai and pan-India, largely due to the charm of captain Dhoni. This translates to huge support for them whenever they play at their home ground. Combine this with the quality of Chennai Super Kings’ players and it is no surprise that they are the first team to win all home matches in a season. They achieved this feat in 2011.
- Another feather in Dhoni’s cap is the fact that he is the only captain to have led his team to victory in 100 matches. Consistency in his personal game rubs off well on the team and coupled with his street-smart captaincy, 100 wins hardly seems a surprise.
- Winning the IPL for two consecutive years is no mean feat and CSK is the only team to have achieved this when they won the tournament in 2010 as well as 2011.
- After Dhoni led India to the inaugural T20 World Cup win in the most unexpected way, it was a given that he will be one of the highest paid players in the IPL. This indeed was the case as he was picked up by Chennai Super Kings for a whopping $1.5 million in the first IPL auction, the costliest pick of the season.
- One of the advantages of a cool and composed captain is that their behaviour on-field almost always becomes an example for other players to follow. Therefore, a team is almost always known by its captain. CSK’s situation is no different as captain cool’s team holds the record for being the most fair and well-behaved team on the field with six fair play awards to their name.
- Chennai also boasts of the highest win percentage among all teams in the IPL. They have won 101 games out 167 matches, bringing their win percentage to a staggering 60.47%.
- CSK has been in the finals a record 8 times, a feat no other team has been able to emulate. They’ve only won 3 finals out of 8 appearances though.
- Suresh Raina of CSK holds the record for playing the most number of matches for a single franchise in the IPL. He has appeared in 134 matches for them, a figure that screams loyalty.
- Dwayne Bravo took 32 wickets playing for the CSK in 2013, which it turns out is the most number of wickets taken by a player in a single edition of the IPL.
- Chennai Super Kings’ jersey holds the distinction of being the only jersey among all other teams that has retained its basic design and colour over all these years, only the sponsors being changed here and there.
These records and facts speak for themselves and testify further to CSK’s strengths as a unit. Their envious streak drives their oppositions to do better too.
Here we take a look at their head to head record against other franchises in the IPL as well as the now defunct Champions League. It will give us a history of their competition with every side as well as an idea of how intense their rivalry is with every team.
If Chennai has an arch rival, it has to be Mumbai. Both of them play some of their best cricket against each other. Matches between the two teams have over the years grown in intensity and are now among the most-awaited encounters of the IPL. One of the reasons for this is that they have dominated almost every other team in the competition. They also have lifted the trophy more times than any other team. While Chennai has 3 titles to their name, Mumbai has 4. Mumbai has an edge in head to head wins too, having won 18 games against Chennai’s 13 in 31 matches so far. They have played each other in 4 finals, with Mumbai winning 3 of them while Chennai won 1. Suresh Raina has scored the maximum runs in encounters between the two, while Lasith Malinga has the most wickets. The records thus indicate that Mumbai have a definite lead over them, one which the Chennai Super Kings’ 2020 version would be looking to halt soon.
Kings XI Punjab
Punjab has been an ever-changing and somewhat inconsistent side compared to the Super Kings, but the North-South rivalry has almost always managed to spice things up between the two. But it is no surprise that Chennai has dominated Punjab over the years, which is quite evident from their head to head statistics. Both teams have played each other in 22 matches, out of which Chennai has won 13 times, whereas Punjab has managed 9 wins. In 2014 though, under the captaincy of Australian George Bailey, Kings XI Punjab were on fire and defeated CSK thrice out of three matches in the IPL, before losing to them once in the Champions League. Suresh Raina is the highest run-scorer among them too, 711 to be precise, while Dwayne Bravo has taken 14 wickets, the most among the two. Punjab hasn’t won an IPL trophy till now.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Despite winning the IPL twice, KKR do not have a flattering record against CSK. CSK has largely managed to keep them in check, barring once in 2012, when KKR managed to win twice in three head to head encounters. Chennai has won 14 times in 23 matches including four Champions League games, while KKR has 8 wins, with one match being abandoned. Suresh Raina, again, is the highest run-getter with 736 runs, while R Ashwin has 16 wickets, the maximum in head to head matches. Kolkata would be looking to better their record against CSK team 2020, considering two of Chennai’s best pulled out of IPL 2020. It is advantage KKR this time around.
Despite trying hard, Rajasthan hasn’t been able to shake off Chennai’s superiority as they have defeated them in 14 matches out of the 22 both teams have played. RR has defeated them in 8 matches. Rajasthan hasn’t been able to capitalise on their inaugural trophy win, never managing to win the title again after 2008. They beat CSK in all 3 encounters in 2008, but haven’t been able to repeat this feat since. Shane Watson has made the maximum runs, amounting to 670 in encounters between the two teams. Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo meanwhile have 15 wickets each to their name, being the joint highest wicket-takers. Rajasthan are underdogs, and have the capability to defeat any team in the competition on its day. It will be a mistake to underestimate them.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Chennai has royally crushed Royal Challengers Bangalore when it comes to their head to head record. The IPL trophy is still elusive for Bangalore, often finishing at the bottom of the points table and this form of theirs has spilled over to their performances against the Chennai Super Kings. In 25 face-offs between the two teams till now, Bangalore has won just 8 matches whereas Chennai has defeated them in 16, with one producing no result. Despite being part of the losing side more often than not, Virat Kohli has the most runs in encounters between the two teams. He has scored 761 runs, whereas Albie Morkel has proven to be the most successful bowler, bagging 16 wickets. They have their work cut-out for them whenever they meet Dhoni’s men. They’ll anyways would be raring to end their losing streak and win at least one IPL soon.
If there is any team other than RCB who has choked in matches against CSK, it is the Sunrisers Hyderabad. They have the least wins against Chennai, managing only 3 out of 13 encounters, whereas Chennai has defeated them 10 times. Suresh Raina, unsurprisingly, again tops the most run-scorer list with 415 runs, while the consistent Dwayne Brave has 15 scalps. In-fact the only time that Sunrisers have won the IPL trophy in 2016, Chennai were out, suspended from the league. If Chennai were playing the league, who knows what would have happened, considering Hyderabad’s dismal record against them. SRH have managed to create a good, balanced combination of players over the years and is the team to look out for in the future.
Formerly Delhi Daredevils, the Delhi Capitals have also been comprehensively dominated by Chennai Super Kings in the wins tally. They also are yet to win a trophy, along with Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore and like RCB, have often found themselves at the bottom of the table. Out of the 21 times Chennai and Delhi have played each other, Chennai has defeated them 15 times while Delhi has 6 wins to their credit. It seems CSK captain Dhoni has a personal liking for the Delhi bowlers, as he is the highest run-getter in head to head encounters and have smashed them for 529 runs. Ravichandran Ashwin’s spin meanwhile has helped him get 16 wickets, the most in both these teams’ face-offs. Though Chennai has been able to tackle them easily, they would be wary of being complacent since Delhi has become more formidable than ever after their makeover.
A journey of 10 years would entail a lot of ups and downs for the team as well as for individuals who are part of the team. Chennai is one of the rare teams that have tinkered with the team as little as possible and tried to keep the core of the team intact. It reflects in a lot of things, more so in their performances because the players feel secure enough to give their best for the team without worrying about the fear of being replaced. They have been accused of being an ageing team, with average age of players much higher than every other team. The team features a lot of retired players like Shane Watson, MS Dhoni himself, but they have proved their detractors wrong time and again. Like the lion on their yellow jersey, they too are famous for playing fearlessly.
Let’s take a look at the most memorable moments from the journey of Chennai’s decade of IPL.
First IPL win
A team’s first trophy win is the most special, and it was extra special for Chennai because they had come very close in 2008 when they lost to Rajasthan Royals by three runs in a heart-breaking finish. This time though, against the Mumbai Indians, Chennai was fully prepared not to make the same mistakes and take the trophy home. The Mumbai Indians were at the top in the league stage and looked like the favorites to win the finals, but CSK had other plans. They scored 168/5 in their 20 overs after winning the toss and deciding to bat first, aided by the ever-so-consistent Suresh Raina’s 57 and cameos by MS Dhoni and Albie Morkel. In reply, Mumbai stuttered from the beginning and was always playing chase as the target kept moving away from them.
Suresh Raina’s magnificence
The top-scorer for CSK, Suresh Raina, has more often than not helped his team cross the finish line with his immaculate batting, but Chennai’s second qualifier against Punjab in 2014 would remain memorable for a different reason. Chennai was set a target of 227 by Punjab, thanks to Virender Sehwag’s 122. Chennai could manage only 202 in reply, but not before Raina put up a display of majestic batting. He scored a magnificent 87 off just 25 balls and made the second-fastest 50 of the IPL at that time off just 16 balls. He hit 84 out of his 87 runs in boundaries that included 6 sixes and 12 fours. Suresh Raina was toying with the Punjab bowling that day, hitting them all over the park. More than anything, the innings was symbolic of the fighting spirit of CSK and their players’ never-say-die attitude, something that bode well for the team for years to come.
CSK was in for the biggest jolt of their journey when the RM Lodha committee suspended them and Rajasthan Royals for two years in 2015. Chennai’s owner, Gurunath Meiyappan was found guilty of illegal betting and bringing the game and BCCI into disrepute. Gurunath was betting on his team illegally, which also gave rise to charges of interest conflict. CSK, which was one of the best teams in the IPL before these charges came to the fore, reached a low no one had anticipated coming. It was hard for CSK’s fans to digest that they wouldn’t be able to compete in the IPL for 2 years and the team management knew that coming back from this would be tough. The fact that they came back roaring into the competition is testament to their strength and unity as a team.
Not a lot of people gave Chennai a chance to win this edition of the IPL after their return from the 2-year ban but they came back and how. To their credit, the team was almost the same, which is an extremely difficult thing to do after such incidents. This made their comeback a lot easier because the players were familiar with each other as well as the format. They were as at ease on the outside as they were before the ban. This nonchalance played a big role in their success in this edition as they defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad with 8 wickets to lift the trophy for the 3rd time. From the lowest of lows to the highest high, it was a roller-coaster tournament for them. Shane Watson scored a century in the finals to carry the team home on his shoulders. The whole gamut of emotions on display made this tournament extra-special for the team as well as their fans.
With such a rich history and loyal fans behind them, Chennai Super Kings’ IPL journey has been sweeter than sour. They are among the strongest teams in the competition, led by one of the best Indian captains of all time MS Dhoni and coached by an ex-captain Stephen Fleming, both of who understand what’s best for their team and have been pretty successful at their jobs. Backed by exceptional players like Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson who make sure they always chip in when their team needs it the most, CSK have a combination that is pretty hard to beat. With Dhoni confirmed to be playing for CSK till at least 2022, other franchises will always have to be on their toes to make a dent in their impressive record.