Chennai Super Kings had a disastrous IPL campaign in 2020 but now they are in the final for the ninth time in 12 seasons after beating Delhi Capitals in the first qualifier of IPL 2021.
In times of coronavirus, getting things back to normal is considered a novelty. What was life prior to the pandemic is now a fading memory. However, the IPL is providing a glimpse of what life was before the pandemic struck. Chennai Super Kings reaching the final and MS Dhoni showing his finishing prowess. These were things before the pandemic that gave a smile to billions of cricket fans. In the first qualifier against the Delhi Capitals, the ‘old normal’ came back in style.
MS Dhoni sealed the deal with a six off Avesh Khan in the 19th over and three boundaries off Tom Curran in the final over to guide Chennai Super Kings over the line. The finisher had once again shown a glimpse of his greatness. Chennai Super Kings had reached the final for the ninth time in 12 editions. In four strokes, two major doubts were cleared. One, whether MS Dhoni had lost it as a finisher? Second, can Chennai Super Kings and their Dad’s Army make it to the final?
The first is still open to a lot of debate. One of the strokes was an inside edge which on any other day could have crashed into the stumps. In 14 matches prior to the first Qualifier, Dhoni had just smashed 96 runs at an average of just over 15 and a strike rate of 100. His finishing prowess was on the wane, with his struggles against the spinners evident in the games against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Prior to the clash against Delhi Capitals, Dhoni had struggled in such a way that many people were trolling the former India captain. They reckoned Dhoni’s presence would benefit the opposition than his own team.
The six and two fours hit off Avesh and Curran dispelled all the doubts. Dhoni himself was quick to point out that he had not done enough in the tournament himself. “You want to get that out of the system. If you are batting well in the nets, just look for the ball, what are the variations, where the bowler could bowl. Other than that, there was nothing much in the mind,” Dhoni said.
Chennai Super Kings may have reached the final for the ninth time in 12 seasons of the IPL. However, hidden beneath that glossy stat is a dark number of losing in five of those finals. They have lost three finals to Mumbai Indians while their other losses came against Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders. It is no hidden fact that Chennai Super Kings have been blown away by one or two major moments in the final that have turned the game.
In all the finals, barring 2008, there has been one individual performance that has stolen the trophy away from Chennai Super Kings. Manvinder Bisla in 2012, Kieron Pollard in 2013 and 2019, and the combined effort of Mumbai Indians in 2015 all dented Dhoni’s side. Imagine, had they won all that, they would have been a nine-time IPL champion. Now, that was a stat worth remembering over and over again.
This is the right time for Chennai Super Kings to script a comeback similar to the lines of 2018. Prior to that title, Chennai Super Kings were banned for two years due to the spot-fixing scandal. But, this spawned a new desire for the side to do well. The circumstances are not too different in 2021. In 2020, they had failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in their history as they finished seventh. But, now in 2021, they are one game away from winning the title for the fourth time.
Ever since his retirement from international cricket in the 2019 ICC World Cup, MS Dhoni has struggled. There are no two ways about it. The blueprint that Dhoni had based his batting on, taking the game to the last ball, was backfiring on a regular basis. Matches that could have been won were now getting lost as Dhoni struggled in that period from the middle to the death overs. Even here, his knock was not vintage Dhoni. The misjudgment occurred in some deliveries. But, when it clicked, it finally resulted in something spectacular.
Can he repeat it in the final? Once again, Dhoni at the end with him hitting the winning runs to give the side their fourth IPL title. That would be the perfect redemption for Dhoni personally. Who knows, this could be the magic Chennai Super Kings need ahead of the 2022 mega auction.