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HomeMS Dhoni shows how to win an IPL title without superstars

MS Dhoni shows how to win an IPL title without superstars

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By Saurabh Kumar: Mahendra Singh Dhoni guided Chennai Super Kings to a record-equalling fifth IPL trophy in 11 final appearances. It was an enormous achievement but the skipper remained unfazed. However, not many gave CSK, a team that finished second last in IPL 2022, a chance to win the title at the start of IPL 2023.

IPL 2023: Full Coverage

A team in transition after the departure of household names like Dwayne Bravo, and Faf du Plessis, and the injury to Mukesh Choudhary, CSK were trying to find its feet again in the IPL. They suffered an ordinary campaign and finished in the 9th spot last season.

If early signs were anything to go by, it looked like Chennai Super Kings would not have a better campaign as they lost to Gujarat Titans in the season opener in Ahmedabad. The gulf in class was evident and despite winning their next matches, CSK slipped again. However, they quickly turned around their fortunes and returned to winning ways.

That CSK under MS Dhoni mounted another incredible comeback is not a surprise, but what was heartening is that the success so far this season has been built on the back of youngsters leading from the front and the veterans providing able support. With no superstars in his armour, Dhoni backed his youngsters as well as players, who were written off, to get the job done – openers Devon Conway (672 runs) and Ruturaj Gaikwad (590), middle-order batters Ambati Rayudu (158 at an SR off 139.82), Rahane, Shivam Dube (418 runs at an average of 158.33), and star all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja (20 wickets and 190 runs at an SR of 142.85) proved enough to come second in the league stage, stay unbeaten in the playoffs and then win the fifth title. Here are CSK’s primary heroes in IPL 2023:

AJINKYA RAHANE

Ajinkya Rahane finished the IPL 2023 season with 326 runs in 11 innings and a strike rate of 172.48. Rahane’s narrative in IPL 2023 has been one of the season’s talking points, as the veteran batter revitalised his fading career in the most unexpected way. Rahane, who turns 35 next month, surprised everyone this season with a sudden change in his hitting style. Rahane hit 16 sixes this season, one more than in the previous four seasons combined.

TUSHAR DESHPANDE

Tushar Deshpande was not expected to be at the top of many lists of top IPL wicket-takers before the season began and had only appeared in seven IPL matches in two seasons before 2023. He, however, finished seventh in the Purple Cap list with 21 wickets and that is because MS Dhoni used his pace as well as the variations in his repertoire – the off-cutter and the knuckleball, to fill one of the gaps in the Chennai Super Kings line-up.

DEVON CONWAY

CSK’s New Zealand opener Devon Conway finished third overall and second in season runs behind Royal Challengers Bangalore’s South African Faf Du Plessis. Conway is the prototypical CSK opener, usually unfazed, goes about his business calmly, and deals in the one currency that matters – runs. His strokes are flamboyant at times, but they are intricately entwined with determination, grit, and mental toughness – attributes that CSK cherishes and has kept since the IPL’s inception.

SHIVAM DUBE

Shivam Dube could scarcely have anticipated that when he arrived for the Chennai Super Kings’ pre-season training, he would be one of the primary heroes of the MS Dhoni-led side’s fifth title success. The Mumbaikar slammed 418 runs in 16 matches at 38.00, with a strike rate of 158.33, with three fifties under his credit, launching into some of the cleanest strikings of the cricket ball you’d ever witness. Most importantly, he hit 35 sixes, the most by an Indian batsman in this edition of the IPL.

MATHEESHA PATHIRANA

There were concerns about Chennai Super Kings’ death bowling in Dwayne Bravo’s absence, but Matheesha Pathirana has ensured that the great West Indian is not missed. Batsmen struggled to pick his variations with his slingy motion, which resembled that of another IPL great, Sri Lankan fast bowler Lasith Malinga, with his arm coming even lower than Malinga’s. Pathirana has proven his worth in IPL 2023, with skipper MS Dhoni typically using him at the conclusion of innings. He has 17 wickets in 13 matches thus far, allowing runs at an average economy of 7.71.

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