Back in the IPL after serving a two-year ban, Chennai’s place in the final wasn’t really predicted by many after they came out of the latest auction with a very experienced but somewhat ageing side, it’s worked fine for them so far.
“Experience really counts but it’s not that it always matters,” explained Dhoni before the final. “It’s not something that can be replaced. The good thing is we have managed with them very well, we have got quite a few good fielders in the side. It is good that whenever we have played we have had at least two good fielders or outstanding fielders that can man that deep mid-wicket position. We have done well so far but it is something that can hurt us at any time.”
The problem with a number of older players – Chennai have Dhoni, Singh, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Karn Sharma, Murali Vijay and Shane Watson, all over 30 – is that fitness through the course of a long tournament can be tricky.
“The age-group of the boys was definitely a concern as we had to keep them fit because of the frequency of the games,” agreed Dhoni. “You have to manoeuvre your resources and you have to look at the bigger picture, to make sure that when we come to the business end of the tournament, our best XI is available. This year we have been able to do that, yet we did have some injury concerns.”
“You know I have a lot of cars and bikes in my house; I don’t ride all at a time,” joked Mahendra Singh Dhoni about not handing the ball to Harbhajan Singh during Chennai Super Kings’ Indian Premier League 2018 Qualifier 1 win over Sunrisers Hyderabad. Singh, he of 417 Test wickets, might have been disappointed, but Dhoni, and Chennai, have done most things right this season, and after finishing the group stage at No 2, beat the team that topped them, Hyderabad, to enter the final where, again, they will face the same opponents.
Back to Singh, and Dhoni said, “There are times, especially when you have six to seven bowlers in the side, you want to know the condition, who is batting and what is needed at that point. The unfair thing is that the player gets criticised for what the batsman is doing.
“If I see the condition and what is best for the team, and then decide who to bowl, who has the best chance against the batsman … those are the reasons I always keep in mind.”
Rayudu has been one of the star performers for Chennai this season. Rayudu, captain of the Indian team at the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2004, has had a stop-start international career, last playing for India on the limited-overs tour of Zimbabwe in mid-2016.
The load has been shared, the usual culprits of the side made up for a number of times. I guess teams win competitions when individuals can win finals so we’re game for that match-winning performance and it’s going to have to come because the opposition is very good,” he said.
Amazingly, Chennai have beaten Kane Williamson’s Hyderabad all three times they have faced off this season.