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IPL 2021: Chennai Super Kings core unit makes one riveting last dance!

Chennai Super Kings (Credit, CSK Twitter]

Bengaluru, October 16: Friday night was a vintage show time, something like watching a 1965 Beatles concert in 2021 in YouTube. But it played out in bright yellow hue instead of the sepia tone and making the right tunes were the band of MS Dhoni in the IPL 2021 final. It was hard not to sway.

Familiar frames rolled in. Faf du Plessis anchored the Chennai Super Kings innings in his 100th match for the franchise as he has done several times, Ravindra Jadeja picked up a couple of crucial wickets, Dwayne Bravo was miserly landing the assortment of slow balls to perplex batsmen, and Dhoni masterminded all that from behind the wicket as Kolkata Knight Riders wilted.

The only missing link to the past was Suresh Raina, who watched the unfolding action from the sidelines. Raina made way for Robin Uthappa after 12 games this season.

But there was an underlying sadness watching them in action. Together for one last time? May be! The mega auction ahead of IPL 2022 is just around the corner and it is highly unlikely that the Super Kings would want to reunite all of them together considering the new squad will form the fulcrum of CSK for three years at least.

It has been the strategy of Chennai in the previous auctions as they created a core unit around Dhoni, Faf, Raina, Jadeja, Bravo and added Ambati Rayudu to it a bit later. Now, they are all into 35+ age category, often leading to Dad's Army trolls.

Chennai coach Stephen Fleming did not commit it a change in era but did not overrule it altogether. After all, no coach would want to see a closely knit, highly successful group getting disbanded, especially after landing another title.

"We don't know. There is some emotion around it. Whenever you get to the end of the cycle, you're not going to get some players back. There is some emotion around these last games, and when you win it it's a celebration but also a recognition of what the players have put in.

"Chennai has always had a system that if you can maintain players and keep them with you for a long time, you get the best out of them, and, there are some players here that have been with us for a long time, and it'll be interesting to see over the next few months how it pans out.

"Most teams are probably going to have a bit of change to them, and we will be one, but how that looks like, it's too early to tell," Fleming said in the post match press conference.

Deep down, many of these players too might be knowing that this could be the last time they donned the yellow of CSK.

But it hardly mattered to them as they went about their business as usual. None exemplified this more than Faf. He defied the energy=sapping, fluid=draining 36 degrees Celsius heat of Dubai to make an 86.

It was that archetypal Faf innings that he often plays for CSK. He hammered runs at a strike rate around 159 before settling into a calmer tempo, perhaps owing to that heat and mustered only 34 runs off the last 24 balls he faced.

An immensely fit person, Faf was struggling for his second run in the latter half of his innings, and as CSK coasted to win Faf watched it for a while from the dug out.

But the dwindling rate of Faf innings hardly mattered as Robin Uthappa, Moeen Ali and Ruturaj Gaikwad batted around the South African to take Chennai to an imposing total in the final.

Once they reached 192, it was always going to be an uphill climb for the Knight Riders because their middle order batting has been iffy throughout the tournament, and the batting burden was shared between Venkatesh Iyer and Shubman Gill.

Even though Gill and Iyer gave a good beginning, 193 remained out of KKR reach and there was no miracle return to form by their middle=order batsmen, rather the Chennai bowlers did not allow it.

They took the match to its logical conclusion, a fourth title for the CSK. Even the presentation ceremony was laden with conversant sights. Dhoni received the IPL trophy from Sorav Ganguly and handed it over to Deepak Chahar as the whole squad slipped into delirious celebration.

A half=smiling Dhoni watched it with his arms around CSK bowling coach Eric Simons.

He was drinking in all that joy and verve, perhaps for one last time. He even dropped a faint hint during the presentation ceremony.

"With two new teams coming in...we have to decide what is good for CSK. It's not about me being there in top-three or four. It's about making a strong core to ensure the franchise doesn't suffer. The core group, we have to have a hard look to see who can contribute for the next 10 years, " Dhoni said in that customary matter of fact tone.

All the signs point to a farewell. If it is indeed, it was a helluva good one!

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Story first published: Saturday, October 16, 2021, 13:42 [IST]
Other articles published on Oct 16, 2021