MS Dhoni made a promise after Chennai Super Kings missed out on the play-offs berth for the first time in IPL 2020. “We’ll come back stronger, that’s what we are known for,” Dhoni had said after CSK were knocked out of the play-offs race in a horror season where hardly anything went right for the 3-time champions. And MS Dhoni has kept his promise. The Super Kings have stormed into their 9th IPL final and the first since 2019 after beating Delhi Capitals in Qualifier 1 of IPL 2021. The odds were stacked against Dhoni’s men as they had not beaten the Capitals since the play-offs in 2019 and lost three matches on the bounce before heading into the play-offs.
However, CSK showcased their experience of having been in the big matches umpteen times before to see off the Delhi Capitals threat and reach the final for the 9th time in the history of the tournament. It was lyrical as MS Dhoni showed signs of his vintage self, hitting a 6-ball 18, hammering six and three boundaries as CSK pulled off a thrilling chase, knocking off 173 against Delhi Capitals on Friday. CSK’s rate of reaching the final is nothing short of awe-inspiring. In 12 seasons, the Men in Yellow have not managed to reach the final only thrice. It remains to be seen whether Chennai will be able to write their record not making the most of final appearances on October 15.
They were written off well before the start of the IPL 2021 season as contrary to expectations, Chennai Super Kings retained the core unit and did not go for a complete overhaul. They had found a gem in Ruturaj Gaikwad who gave CSK fans something to cheer for after Shane Watson called it time on his cricket career following a terrific ride with the Super Kings. It did not look rosy for Chennai Super Kings at the start of IPL 2021. MS Dhoni’s men lost their season opener to Delhi Capitals by 7 wickets despite posting 188 on the board.
CSK stuck to their opening pair of Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis but the duo failed, managing only single-digit scores in the first match but their new recruit Moeen Ali showed signs of what was to come with a cameo at No. 3 – a spot where CSK had issues in the UAE in 2020. However, CSK got up and running by hammering Punjab Kings in Mumbai. CSK didn’t look back from there as they won 5 matches on the bounce to soar to the top spot of the IPL 2021 points table.
They lost to defending champions Mumbai Indians in Delhi before the India leg of IPL 2021 was suspended due to positive Covid-19 cases in the bio-bubbles of franchises in New Delhi and Ahmedabad. However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India made sure they hosted the remainder of the IPL but the tournament, which was suspended in May, was moved to the UAE in the September-October window.
Once again, CSK was caught on a sticky surface as questions were asked whether they would be able to continue their fine run in the UAE, wherein they had a horror run in 2020. Having won 5 from their 7 matches in India’s leg, CSK carried their form, blasting away opposition. They became the first team to qualify for the IPl 2021 play-offs. The turnaround was led by Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis, who went helter-skelter against an opposition bowling attack. Young Ruturaj, who had shown the sport to his captain towards the end of IPL 2020, turned it into the fire as he crushed bowling attacks with his elegance. Ravindra Jadeja’s emergence into a dangerous all-rounder augured well for Chennai.