Dubai: Chennai Super Kings have shown that it’s not age, but fitness and willingness to go all out for a win that really matters after their spectacular comeback in the 11th edition of the Indian Premier League. For those who believed that Twenty20 is a young man’s sport, Chennai have shown that experience that comes with age counts in making the difference.
Chennai opener Shane Watson, who retired from all forms of international cricket in March 2016, was unstoppable as he remained unbeaten with a knock of 117 in the final at the Wankhede Stadium. In 20 days, Watson will turn 37 but the power behind his shots were awesome. There were seven players over the age of 30 in the Chennai team — including the wily captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who in 40 days will also turn 37. Dhoni, on whom the debate is still on whether he will be fit enough to play in the 2019 World Cup, has been consistent with the bat too.
Watson appeared in the final with a hamstring injury but that did not deter him from displaying his skills to win the match for Chennai. The spirit to play and win overrides everything. In fact, Watson’s teammate Dwayne Bravo even remarked that Watson batted on one leg, struggling with a hamstring injury, but it is his experience that got him through.
“It is the fitness that really matters more than the age aspect. What captains want is players who move well in the field. It doesn’t matter, which year a player is born in, whether you are 19 or 20 — you have to be agile,” said Dhoni, who has often recovered from back spasm during this tournament effectively.
Dhoni went on to hail Ambati Rayudu, another of his consistent performers in the team. “Rayudu, for example, is 33, he’s someone who is fit, covers a lot of ground. Even if he plays a few games where he spends a lot of time in the ground and in the field, he never complains. So it is the fitness that really matters more than the age aspect.”
As Chennai was led by an ageing Dhoni, they were being addressed by a few as Dad’s Army. Whatever the team may have been called, the fact is that Chennai has been unstoppable. A record of seven appearances in the final and three-time champions is indeed remarkable. Overall as captain in the IPL, (including his win as Rising Pune Supergiants skipper) Dhoni has won 94 matches. In the next IPL, Dhoni may record a century of victories in the IPL.
Dhoni continued to prove that he is still the ‘Captain Cool’ despite giving up Indian captaincy in shorter formats over a year ago to Virat Kohli. The calmness with which he handled tense phases in this IPL was remarkable. When pointed out that Sunday night saw his 89th win as Chennai captain, Dhoni jokingly said: “A lot of people talk about stats, so tonight is 27th, my jersey number is seven and this is the seventh final for us. Enough reasons to win it. But none of these reasons matter, what matters is that we’ve won it in the end.”
Dhoni was clearly hinting that he likes to live in the present and enjoys every moment in cricket.