When the ‘Yellow Army’ of Chennai Super Kings was back in the Indian Premier League after their two-year ban following corruption controversies, it was already an assurance that the 2018 edition would be one of the most thrilling ones. But, IPL lovers have been a bit bemused when Captain Cool M S Dhoni and Head Coach Stephen Fleming went to team up a squad of senior players instead of following the trend of identifying young blood in the shortest format. When the yellow brigade geared up with Shane Watson, Harbhajan Singh, Ambati Rayudu, Fat du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, Imran Tahir, who were all into their 30s besides Dhoni, CSK has been ridiculed as "Chennai Senior Kings" and "Dad's Army".
Many have written off MSD’s ‘Dad’s Army’ even before the season kicked off. But, debunking the notion that their ageing stars would pull down performances, CSK proved that they were an absolute antithesis to what everyone termed as 'Dad's Army'. CSK left everyone stumped with their surge to the final and clinched their third IPL crown at Wankhede Stadium on May 27, to become the oldest team to claim any of the world’s top T20 league titles.
Things were hardly promising at the start as it appeared that the CSK management had put their faith on the thirty-plus age spectrum when the mission they signed up for demanded explosive power and innovative skills. But, CSK won half of their battle at the auction table itself as the management was sure about their picks. Especially, at a time when CSK was looking for a majestic comeback after two years. Dhoni knew that the typical success mantra of having young and dynamic performers would not help CSK to rebuild the cup-winning team because they needed experienced players, who knew what it takes to win an IPL.
All members of the core team have won IPL titles earlier by giving significant contribution to the victory. They repeated their stints and ensured CSK’s title-clinching streak this year too. It was undoubtedly the consistency, effective captaincy, and experienced players which won the IPL for CSK. The matchwinner in the final, Shane Watson, who is just short of his 37th birthday, kept the confidence his captain has placed on him despite the Australian’s terrible performance in last season (71 runs in 8 matches). Watson stood up whenever the team needed – scoring two centuries and two half centuries this season. It was his unbeaten 117 off 57, the highest score in an IPL final, won the cup for CSK
Ambati Rayudu, one from Dhoni’s 30+ brigade, finished as CSK’s top-scorer this season with 602 in 16 matches – also earning him an India call for the ODI series in England. Dhoni never missed to tap the potential of Deepak Chahar. The clever use of senior spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Harbhajan Singh whenever situation demanded turned out fruitful. Though Fat du Plessis had to stay out of many matches he singlehandedly took CSK to final stunning Sunrisers Hyderabad with his unbeaten 67 of 42 balls. All of the core team stood up at different situations when the team demanded their support.
The season was a personal triumph for Dhoni too as he shone both as a captain and batsman in addition to doing a fine job behind the stumps. Captain Cool has finished as the team’s third-highest run scorer this IPL with 455 runs in 16 outings, which was his second-best performance in the 11 IPLs so far. With their majestic performance, CSK has given the ideal reply to their critics and proven once again, ‘Age is just a number’.