Chennai Super Kings’s third Indian Premier League triumph on Sunday didn’t just establish them as the most successful team in the tournament history with Mumbai Indians. CSK, which Mahendra Singh Dhoni led to victory, also showed that the ‘Dad’s Army’ of 30-plus cricketers were absolutely stellar in this edition of the tournament. Twenty20 cricket, with its demand on power-hitting, athletic fielding and acrobatic catching, calls for lot of strength. That has turned it into as much a test of fitness race as of skills and tactics.
CSK’s triumph was a reward for trusting experience, not obsessing about players’ ages and focusing on quality. Dhoni said as much after the final. He called out those who had mentioned his age, and said it all came down to fitness in the end. None exemplified this more than Australian all-rounder Shane Watson, who made light of a dodgy hamstring that restricted his running, hammering a second century of this IPL to subdue Sunrisers Hyderabad in the final.
Chennai’s choice of old hands — Watson, 36, Dwayne Bravo, 34, Harbhajan Singh, 37, and Dhoni, who is nearly almost 37 — had not been seen to be a recipe for swashbuckling success. The frenetic pace of the tournament and sapping heat were expected to defeat them.
In the end, CSK was anxious only in making sure the players didn’t throw themselves on the field and get injured. The think tank of Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming were vindicated in backing experience for the consistency it brings.
This CSK team with an average age of 33 years and 67 days was the oldest in IPL history. Experience also helped Chennai adapt in terms of tactics after Cauvery protests forced them out of their home turf, Chennai.
Watson, who hit two centuries this season, was the player of the tournament a decade ago with Rajasthan Royals in their victorious 2008 campaign. It showed how well he has endured and aged.
Dhoni has managed his schedule and his body. Keeping himself only for the limited-overs format in international cricket, he has reduced his workload and freed up his calendar. His explosive finishing touch has returned, both in international games as well as in the league. In a way, what he is doing is similar to the manner in which tennis legend Roger Federer has achieved a glittering autumn of his own career.
Don’t scoff at ageing stars. Appreciate the unique qualities they can bring to bear on sport.
First Published: May 29, 2018 08:31 IST
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