Let’s put it straight into facts - this team was assembled in 2018, as a result of what the franchise needed after its two-year-ban, immediate result and getting back into the groove. While it may have worked very well in 2018, worked extraordinarily well in 2019 but 2020?
“We always had the belief that we had the firepower in the middle overs. There was no plan to send Bravo up ahead. Rayudu has been our main batters, so we had protection in the middle. We've been aware of these things. Age is just a number, but you have to be very fit. No plans as of now,” uttered Dhoni after winning the 2018 final but at the same time was aware of the shortcomings that seemingly will destroy them in the future.
This Chennai Super Kings team, better known as Dad’s Army, was built on the fact that there was always going to be a Mega Auction in 2021, where they will seemingly take a different approach, a stance that they have always taken prior to their ban, where there would be a team mixed of youngsters and active cricketers. Till the time, Chennai were still bossing on the grass at Chepauk with their tremendous spin-unit, the batting never seemed to be in question. Even more so, when Dhoni himself led by example, scoring 871 runs in two seasons, batting low down the order, it was never bound to be questioned, so what really changed?
Until then, the three-time IPL winners never needed to take a different approach, given that they were sure-shot playing seven games at home, where the conditions would be intolerable and hard for the opponents. You might have the best of spin units but on the day, the men in Yellow with the crowd behind them will make you look like a muppet and that worked for two seasons, brilliantly till the frailties slowly started turning into insecurities for the fans. The team still believed in the process, one that gave them immediate results but fate had it differently, as the 2020 IPL was shifted to UAE.
As fate had it, fans could not fathom it, that their CSK, the ones that they beloved and grew up watching were failing, not just ordinary but in extraordinary circumstances and fashion. They suddenly found themselves at the extreme end of the table, eight in what was a shocker but should it? It shouldn’t because the team’s major plan or process was not just ‘Thala’ will take care of it but more importantly, Chepauk will take care of it. That’s the reasoning behind why they went with more spinners and seemingly made other teams jealous of their spin-unit and a few others laugh at the choices that could make them spoilt! But where is the Plan-B?
CSK never had a Plan B, never, they were always going in with the assumption that Chepauk and Thala Dhoni will handle it on their own, both of which didn’t go their way. Neither did they get Chepauk nor did they get a firing Dhoni, instead they got a bluffing one. Then arrived the moment of truth, was this team good enough to take on the strong favourites? It looked like they could but it was all a farce if anything this team was a mere reflection of the sporting talent available to them at the Auction. This team never needed more experience, they needed a spark, they needed talents, who would create that thunderous clap, were they there? We would never know, as the franchise seemingly were hell-bent on going back to Plan A, which miserably failed and you are allowed to criticise the process because the results didn’t support it!
It shouldn’t come as a surprise now, legends say that some fans are still celebrating the 2010 and 2011 IPL wins, built on the philosophy this team badly needs. They need that hunger, it’s all about the hunger games, in the end, the team which is more hungry will take away the delicacy. So what do they do now to salvage this season? None, they could try out the best of talents for the rest of their season and will still end up in the bottom half, such is how the teams have developed themselves while CSK are still like the Nokias’ of the technology world. Irrespective of the Mega Auction, the franchise needs to go out and get those youngsters, who Dhoni trusts, who he thinks he has seen enough of to be world-beaters.
Or, in worst-case, if Dhoni is going to call it a day, well he does surprise from time-to-time, they would have to go back to the players who would take them back to doing the right things. Shane Watson was good, Dwayne Bravo was good and all the others too were excellent but the fact is, at these times, a change often does more good than worse, and it is right to be critical and not blind. When Bravo wasn't there on the field, CSK struggled to find the momentum towards the back end, why leave it till the worst? In 2018, the franchise knew that their fielding was always going to come under the pump but in 2020, the skipper is going out and defending them for their 'age,' somewhere something as minor as the defence must change.
A local talent base is a must and with that, if you are unearthing some of the best talents in terms of pace bowling, that is the right approach. If you really look at this outfit, you would understand that there is no fire, absolutely no fire in Chepauk. A Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur all developed because of the faith and confidence instilled, they never were this good from day 1. The faith, the confidence, the resurgence and to move away from being hell-bent on turning tracks at Chepauk. The brilliant and innovative thinker in Dhoni needs to wake up, start looking at the process and change it for the better. This team still gives a lot of hopes to the fans, when they aren’t playing at their best, so imagine how much hope it would give the players if they were trusted.
An extended run for the youngsters, changing the process and seemingly creating something better - all of which the 39-year-old skipper has done in the past, be innovative yet seek the right answers for the obvious questions. Very well, CSK could have gone with Narayan Jagadeesan as the opener instead of Murali Vijay but the experience part helped them crumble their pie. It is not now-or-never for CSK this season for the season has already gone by them in a fraction of second but it's now-or-never for them next season, which is still in their own hands.
If batting does them no good, why not just go all-out on bowling, wouldn’t that too fancy them wins? But at the moment, they neither want to go for the win or change their plans, which is rigid and not working! “As long as you’re alive, you’ll always have a Plan B,” unfortunately for CSK they neither are alive in the competition nor really seem to be having a Plan B, which has worked! This CSK team for the last three years thrived under the pressure of always chasing things, be it targets, be it wickets or runs but now the ‘I will chase’ approach is not working, they need to start taking things early and not leave it late, so before the 2020 season, the ball is in your court, CSK, either start early or get doomed chasing late!