Welcome to the series, where we look at some of the past events and how it has shaped the history of the game, in our weekly segment, ‘Throwback Thursday.’ This week, we look at CSK’s comeback game against Mumbai Indians, which clearly changed how the franchise was looked at after their return.
It was April 7, 2018, and we are at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, where Chennai Super Kings are facing Mumbai Indians in the opening game of the season. We have already reached into the twilight phase of the day and the crowd is still stuck right to their seats, thanks to the gripping encounter right in front of them. It is an encounter where the team in yellow can surely announce that they are back and back amongst the mix for the title yet again, but first, they have to cross the finish line. The only hope in the mix for the “Daddy Army” is the 34-year-old from Pune, Kedar Jadhav, who is already on his last leg after being injured earlier in the game. CSK still need one run to win off two deliveries as Mustafizur Rahman runs in to bowl the final two deliveries. But before that, we have to surely know what got us here to his crucial juncture of the innings at the Wankhede stadium.
Since the first edition of this mega-tournament, the rivalry between these two franchises has been nothing short of India-Pakistan. MS Dhoni and co had an early advantage over the Mumbai franchise in the early years of the competition, declaring themselves as a world-beater. However, in the second half, they were not so grand in the latter years.
While their rivalry stretched as long as eight years in the competition, it was forced by a break of two years, when CSK was banned from the tournament. Alongside Rajasthan Royals, they got the telling order in 2015, when the RM Lodha committee suspended India Cements, parent association of the franchise and Jaipur IPL, who ran Rajasthan Royals for illegal betting and match-fixing probe. The dark-mark on the franchise was a big one, with its several thousand fans left in desperation. In their absence, their bitter-rivals, Mumbai went on to add another IPL title to their name, edging past their record of two titles in the history of the competition.
So, when their return was announced by the IPL Governing Council (GC), expectations and hype around the club increased multifold. There was a familiar breeze back in the southern city, which was until that point, for two years, in the worst of times. Rich-cricketing history-filled Chennai was devoid of any IPL action, with none of the franchises interested, whatsoever. More interestingly, the players from both the suspended franchises - CSK and RR were part of the newly formed Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiant. Their own skipper MS Dhoni was wearing a different outfit and was immediately humiliated at the end of the first season, where he was stripped of the captaincy.
Just prior to the start of the season, Stephen Fleming was joined by the experienced face of Kasi Viswanath. It was given that the franchise would be looking to target all their former players in the mega auction. However, there was a shock - the Super Kings let go some of their key members from the previous season and instead added a few new shocking names in the squad. They also retained the familiar faces, in the form of the West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo and Proteas batsman Faf du Plessis. Shockingly, they also roped in some of the big-names from their rivals, Mumbai with Ambati Rayudu and Harbhajan Singh.
After the auction, the franchise was a viral target of a lot of memes on their strategy of purchasing players above the age of 30. Some even went on to call them “Daddy Army’. In the very first game, they had the chance to stun silence the entire world and show that this time too, they have the potential to win the competition. It was the right opportunity, coming in at the home of their arch-rivals at the iconic, Wankhede.
Everything started looking right in place when MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to field first at their opponent’s den. Immediately, the visitors put the home side in a spot of bother, with Chahar picking up Rohit Sharma’s wicket. However, after that, it was a one-sided affair in the first innings as the home side cruised to a grand total of 165 runs for the loss of just four wickets. The bowling unit that the franchise’s think-tank had assembled failed in the very first game, putting all the dear fans in a bit of bother. All the wait, all the energy had just vanished following the very first innings.
When CSK were reduced to 75/5, the game looked far away from being a two-sided encounter. However, like all of the franchises’ games, this too went down a different route - a thriller was in store, with Dwayne Bravo swinging the willow-like it was Thor’s hammer against Jasprit Bumrah and Mitchell McClenaghan. But the buck stopped right there, Bravo walked a long walk back to the hut. And out came an injured Kedar Jadhav, who just a few overs back was limping on his foot.
The equation was simple, the Lions needed seven runs off Mustafizur to script an incredible comeback. Three dot balls and plenty of sighs later, Jadhav connected a ramp, which travelled all the way for a maximum. Now, there was a familiar sense of aura around the dressing room - a sense of euphoria but there was still the final hurdle. One run off two deliveries as the left-arm pacer runs in with the ball, and a Maharashtrian is on the verge of becoming an overnight hero for the franchise.
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