The Mumbai Indians may have won, but the IPL 2020 game on Friday was more about the Chennai Super Kings fall. Chennai have been misfiring in the UAE, but the capitulation in Sharjah was beyond belief. Usually, Chennai are at their best when their backs are against the wall. They rally from impossible situations. But the 10-wicket rout is ominous. It signals the end of an era. A 13-year run (they were suspended for two years in between), which brought them three IPL titles, has finally ended.
Chennai and their skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had built a template for success with a blend of players with high on experience. And that worked well. Even when they faced daunting situations, the maturity of the players help tide over the crises. It was a template that was borrowed by the Mumbai Indians and the Kolkata Knight Riders to chart their success. In fact, Mumbai refined it so well that they have a side formidable enough to battle in all conditions and all types of pitches.
Friday’s defeat was baffling. Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah bowled excellent spells when the wicket offered some assistance. None of the top-order Chennai batsmen, including Mahendra Singh Dhoni, showed the ability to tough it. If one of them had shown the skill and patience of Sam Curran (52 runs off 47 balls), Chennai would have had a fighting total. A counter-attack is fine when there are enough wickets in hand, or else it can be disastrous as Chennai found out. In sharp contrast, Mumbai openers Quinton de Kock (46 off 37) and Ishan Kishan (68 off 37) raced away to avoid creating a crisis.
Technically, IPL 2020 is over for Chennai though there’s still an outside chance. Rather than wait it out, Dhoni and the Chennai management should get to work right away to build the side for the next IPL. It will not be prudent to look for success straightaway. That would lead to the shortcut of recruiting established players, much like some of the European clubs.
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If Chennai want to create another enduring legacy, they should build a team from scratch, more like the Delhi Capitals. That would require a waiting period before the strategy pays off. Delhi are yet to win their maiden IPL title, but they have nurtured a side capable of winning soon.
A better route would be to have a mix of young talents and experienced players. That would allow young players enough exposure to develop quickly and form a fighting unit. Mumbai offers the best example. It may be time for Chennai to borrow the Mumbai template.