If you have been to Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, you couldn’t have the missed the whistling. That’s the shrill sound of celebration. The staccato whistling rises to a crescendo when Chennai Super Kings are playing. And they often win too. Enough reason to whistle. Enough reason to celebrate.
The architect of the celebrations has been their talismanic captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has led them to eight finals in the Indian Premier League. Hailing from Ranchi, Jharkhand, Dhoni has attained a demi-god status in Tamil Nadu. Much like superstar Rajinikanth of the Tamil movies. Both capable of superhuman feats. If they call Rajinikanth thalaivar (leader in Tamil), they call Dhoni thala (head or leader in Tamil). That’s the affection and respect they command.
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The comparison ends there. Dhoni’s exploits are real, not make-believe. CSK fans, who call themselves Whistle Podu Army, believe then can win as long as the former Indian cricket captain is out there in the middle. The keep whistling (whistle podu, roughly translates into: Blow a whistle). And he’s hardly disappointed them.
Three title wins in the Indian Premier League and two in the Champions League are adequate evidence. They have the highest win percentage and are the only team to have qualified for the IPL play-offs every season, except for the two years they were suspended. All this was under the stewardship of Dhoni. No wonder he’s a legend.
Dhoni may have retired from international cricket, but the Whistle Podu Army expect him to deliver the title this time too. Even if it is in the unfamiliar terrain of the UAE. Even when COVID-19 had dealt them a huge blow.
Chennai has the experience and the skill to make light of the loss of three players. Two tested positive for coronavirus along with some of the support staff. Suresh Raina’s decision not to take part in this IPL has been a wincing blow. He’s been a run-scoring machine in the IPL; second only to Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli.
For a team that have had such roaring success, Chennai Super Kings are more like a Dad’s Army now. Dhoni’s retired from international duty, Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo and Imran Tahir are not exactly spring chickens. All of them have contributed immensely to the success of CSK. So the question is, will the heat and humidity of the UAE catch them out?
Batting has been the hallmark of Chennai Super Kings. No target is safe from their blazing blades, never mind the ages of batsmen. The fast bowling looks a bit thin in the absence of Josh Hazlewood and Sam Curran initially if Josh Hazlewood and Sam Curran are to miss out the first couple of matches. Lungi Ngidi will spearhead the attack with Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur. The spin department is secure in Ravindra Jadeja, Imran Thahir and Harbajan Singh; all old warhorses who can keep things quiet.
Don’t discount Stephen Fleming. The former New Zealand skipper has been their coach for quite a while. Chennai owe their success to him as much as Dhoni. Dhoni and Fleming can be a handful. They will be there this year too. The rivals better watch out.
Main man: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Indian Premier League wins: 3 (2010, 2011, 2018)
Champion LeagueT20 wins: 2 (2010, 2014)
Captain: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Owners: Chennai Super Kings Cricket Ltd
Coaches: Stephen Fleming (Head coach), Michael Hussey (Batting coach), Lakshmipathy Balaji (Bowling coach)
Squad list for IPL 2020
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Murali Vijay, Faf du Plessis, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Mitchell Santner, Sam Curran, MS Dhoni, Narayan Jagadeesan, Ravindra Jadeja, Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, R. Sai Kishore, Dwayne Bravo, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Lungi Ngidi, KM Asif, Monu Kumar and Josh Hazlewood.
- This is the second in our series of team profiles for IPL 2020