S. SOORAJ | 16th October 2021

Sport and great stories go together like gin and tonic. We have seen legacies built, history written and miracles come to life in sport, over and over again and yet, it never ceases to surprise.

Especially those, where an individual or a set of them that form a team go from nothing to something. The nothing doesn’t imply a nothingness in terms of skill or potential but the belief they had in themselves and the something is the summit.

And that is what we all witnessed in Dubai on Friday, a fitting end to a brilliant comeback story that the fans will never get tired of telling, years and years from now.

A comeback story for the ages from a Chennai Super Kings side that was written off by fans and pundits alike has made jaws and tears drop in equal measure.

Before the start of IPL 2021, not a peep was heard from anyone other than the fans and the franchise in backing CSK to go all the way. And it is always much harder than usual to put forth a quality showing on the back of an appalling, if not the worst ever season in the franchise’s history.

Failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in their illustrious history, this team was in shambles and given the age factor of a majority of the squad, a comeback wasn’t on the cards to say the least.

However, Dhoni and his troops blocked out all the noise this time around, bossing each and every opposition they came across, laying their hands on a well-deserved trophy in style.

And what makes this comeback one that is worthy of all a front cover spread is the fact that barring the introduction of the two active players, this is the same group that got battered convincingly in UAE.

CSK didn’t make things happen with an embarrassment of riches like the Mumbai Indians or other champions of the past.

A squad of outcasts has won the IPL- a Faf du Plessis who is simply under the bleachers for the Proteas, an Ambati Rayudu who wasn’t good enough for MI, a Moeen Ali who couldn’t find a spot at RCB, a Robin Uthappa who is still remembered for 2007 and an out-of-sorts Dwayne Bravo.

CSK picked up all the pieces and fit them together to build the perfect puzzle.

Last time ‘round, the main criticism for CSK was the lack of intent the team showed with the bat. The batsmen were wasting a ton of deliveries, struggling to go for the big shots and slogging through crucial overs in the game. The side never took off in most of the contests and it resulted in an unprecedented early exit.

The intent was perhaps the most blatant issue for this side in the previous season, and the management as well as the captain rectified this error, redefining Chennai’s style of play into a version more direct and streamlined. The bottle is the same but the wine tastes better.

Aspects such as intent should never be up in the air, especially in T20 cricket.

And from first game to last, CSK were calculated, with an air of fearlessness about them. In the finals, going up against a KKR side that is known for its exceptional bowling unit, Chennai made sure that ripped them apart, considering they had been put in to bat first.

We saw RCB and DC batsmen struggling to get the better of the KKR’s bowling arsenal, crumbling to poor targets in the playoffs.

The batsmen could never get things going and the spinners got the job done for the men in purple. However, that certainly wasn’t the case with CSK.

Even the razor-sharp Narine-Shakib-Varun trio, the likes of du Plessis, Uthappa and Moeen hit them to all parts.

Even some of the world’s finest batters in Virat Kohli, Glen Maxwell, and Shikhar Dhawan fell to the sword, unlike the infamous “Dad’s Army”.

Amassing a sizeable 192 on the board in 20 overs, CSK made a brilliant bowling attack look average and were sitting comfortably, going into the 2nd innings.

However, Venkatesh Iyer spearheaded his side to a ferocious start, with Gill ably playing the anchor role. With the introduction of Bravo and Thakur to the attack, CSK pumped the brakes. And from there on, it was easy like Sunday morning for the men in yellow.

Before we forget, a major part of why Chennai are champions has to go to their sublime openers that wear the numbers, 13 and 31. Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis scored a combined 1268 runs, as they came 1st and 2nd respectively in the Orange Cap race.

Name a more iconic duo, we’ll wait…

This double-act contributed 53% of the Super Kings’ runs this season, playing a central role in the retaining the title after two seasons. It goes without saying that the Gaikwad-du Plessis duo will go down as one of the greatest ever opening pairings in the history of the IPL.

While the pair made the batting efforts of this side look like a two-man job for a majority of the time, massive credit needs to go to the champions for bossing every department to the tee.

And last but never the least, we have to talk about MS Dhoni- the greatest captain the shortest-format of the game has ever seen proved once again why he is worthy of such praise at 40 years of age.

By giving each player roles they were thrive in, he got the best out of a side that has no right to be this dominant.

Be it playing Moeen Ali at No.3 or backing Ruturaj Gaikwad after a poor start to the season, MSD always knew what he was doing; setting the track for an IPL-winning season.

When CSK came back to the IPL after a two-year ban and formed this side in the 2018 mega auction, a lot of fingers were pointed and questions were asked regarding the age cut-off and the current form of all these players. To some they were underdogs, to many, they were a laughing stock.

Fast forward to 2021, CSK have qualified for 3 out of 4 finals since then, winning two IPL trophies. The proof is in the pudding.

Whilst another mega auction awaits us in 2022, this might be the last time we see this incredible group of players together.

Dhoni and his soldiers for painted Dubai yellow and etched their name into the coveted IPL trophy for the 4th time in an IPL-record 9 finals.

Always in contention. Never in doubt. The Chennai boys truly make all the noise everywhere they go.