CSK: The fall of cricket’s Manchester United

The impact of Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) suspension is undoubtedly a positive step to curb the evils that has gripped the sport in India. Fingers can be pointed at the CSK management, but that doesn’t take anything away from a side that is rightly hailed as the most successful cricket franchise ever.

CSK have won two Indian Premier League (IPL) titles, two Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) times, are four-time IPL finalists and have qualified for the league play-offs every single time. Ever since the inception of the IPL, CSK have built their side around Indian cricket’s hottest property — Mahendra Singh Dhoni. In 2008, Dhoni was already steering a young Indian side to a successful direction, having won the inaugural World Twenty20 Championship in September 2007. CSK decided to invest their faith in the Indian captain, a decision that proved to be a masterstroke.

One of the reasons for CSK’s success has been the fact that they have retained the core of the side. Players like Dhoni and Suresh Raina continue to play for the yellow brigade since inception. The careers of Ravichandran Ashwin, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Murali Vijay and others have only blossomed with CSK. In fact, the first XI of India’s World Cup 2015 sides had five CSK players — Dhoni, Ashwin, Jadeja, Raina and Mohit.

Right from the season one, CSK has not only won games but also fans all over. Their popularity can be seen on social media: 11 million followers on Facebook and 1.8 million on Twitter. Whichever part of the country or world they play, the yellow brigade remains most popular. The franchise is often called the Manchester United of cricket — a historic football club with an impregnable record and boasting legendary names like Bobby Charlton, George Best, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Gary Neville and Cristiano Ronaldo. Alex Ferguson was manager of this great side for almost 27 years. Similarly, former New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming, who opened the batting for CSK in the first edition, is coach of the side since then. Like captain Dhoni, Fleming too is considered to be one of the brightest brains in the game.

Off-field controversies apart, CSK have been a cohesive unit which believes in speaking through performances and not wagging tongues. That’s the reason they have won the IPL Fair Play Award the most number of times. CSK is a dominant force in cricket and it’s a shame that things may not be the same hereafter.

CSK has made it clear that they will appeal against this decision. If things don’t go their way it’s unlikely that they will retain the players by paying them. The players definitely will not want to miss on playing in the IPL for three years and therefore they are likely to be sent to auction and a dominant force, that CSK still is, will be ripped into pieces. Big boys like Dhoni, Raina, Bravo and Ashwin might be bought for big bucks, while the smaller ones may make up numbers or fringes in other sides.

In the past, Dhoni has gone on to say that he will only play franchise cricket for CSK. Dhoni happens to be a vice-president with India Cements (a company that owns CSK). A CSK source was quoted in Times of India, as saying, “In CSK, Dhoni’s is the last word on every issue. There is absolutely no pressure from the management and he can play with a free mind. He loves playing for CSK and that’s why he never misses a game, unless he is severely injured.”

Italian top football club Juventus in 2007 was punished for the match-fixing scandal and demoted to the second division in 2007. Italian star goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who was face of the club, chose not desert them and remained with the club. Many will expect the CSK face and Indian stumper to follow that pursuit in order to show his loyalty to the side. There is no second division in IPL and Dhoni’s playing years are numbered. Having retired from Tests, it’s unlikely that three years down the line he will still continue at the top level.

The Lodha Panel made it clear that interest and losses of the team owners and players counts less when compared to the game’s credibility. True and it’s good to see a decision being meted out but at the same time it’s shattering for CSK fans and cricket lovers to see the dismantling of a winning force that once proudly wore the bright yellow and followed their leader Dhoni on the ground.

 

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)

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