Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
Trust MS Dhoni to script himself the perfect ending.
The former Indian skipper had spent two seasons in the shadows, playing for an IPL team he never really got around to calling home but cut to 2018 and he was back in the CSK yellow.
Some questions, however, remained. Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina, Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis and Ambati Rayudu were picked at the IPL auction and Dhoni seemed to have formed himself a ‘Dad’s army’ – 30 plus players that their national teams had mostly chosen to forget in a format that, well, favoured the other end of the age spectrum.
On 27 May 2018 at the Wankhede Stadium, with a playing XI that averaged almost 31 years, MS Dhoni lifted his third IPL trophy with his CSK that and it was his 'Dad’s army' recruits who made it happen.
Shane Watson, just short of his 37th birthday, is the oldest member of the CSK squad. He had a terrible IPL last season with RCB scoring just 71 runs in 8 matches, but with Dhoni showing confidence, Watson stepped up whenever the team needed – scoring two centuries and two half centuries this season. One of his tons was in Sunday’s final where he started slow, scoring nothing in his first 10 balls before going on to smash an unbeaten 117 off 57, the highest score in an IPL final.
The winning runs in the match though were hit by a player who, not many would have even thought, would be a regular starter in the team. Instead, Ambati Rayudu was a regular owner of the orange cap and finishes as CSK’s top-scorer this season. He is also one from Dhoni’s 30+ brigade doing whatever his captain asked of him – he opened for the team at the start of the season then moved to the middle order when Raina got injured then moved back to the top and finished against in the middle order when Faf du Plessis was added to the line-up. But wherever he batted, he was among the runs – 602 in 16 matches – also earning him an India call for the ODI series in England.
And then there is Dhoni himself. At 36, with his number one fan – daughter Ziva in tow this season, Dhoni turned back the clock as he finished as the team’s third-highest run scorer this IPL. His 455 runs in 16 outings in fact is his second-best performance in the 11 IPLs so far and his captaincy too was all aces. Like when he sent Harbhajan and Chahar in at 5 and 6 against Punjab simply to, in his words, ‘create chaos’. His confidence in Ambati, well, saw many orange cap moments too this season.
Also, in the 30s club are Suresh Raina, Dhoni’s trusted deputy, who got among the runs and Dwayne Bravo who stepped up when needed, and Faf du Plessis, who single-handedly helped CSK qualify for the final in their first attempt.
So, well, sometime or the other, whenever needed by their skipper, each from Dhoni’s hand-picked ‘army’ helped the team eventually finish on top on Sunday. CSK’s third IPL title. Dhoni’s dream-team.