IPL 2019 team review: Beyond MS Dhoni and Imran Tahir, not enough firepower for Chennai Super Kings
Shane Watson, Imran Tahir and MS Dhoni during CSK's loss in Qualifier 1. © BCCI

They defied the odds again to reach the IPL 2019 final, where they ended up losing by one run to Mumbai Indians. Carrying excess baggage, hurt by player injuries and loss of form, defending champions Chennai Super Kings, under MS Dhoni, came agonisingly close to a record fourth IPL championship.

It speaks of their resilience and uniqueness, as well as reliance on Dhoni the captain, batsman, wicketkeeper and all-round talisman-cum-motivator. And also of the fact that changes are required to compete consistently with younger and fitter teams in the IPL.

As both Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming pointed out during and after the tournament, CSK needs to re-think certain strategies. Shane Watson ate up far too many dot balls in an ordinary season, Suresh Raina was far from his best and the utter failure of Ambati Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav hurt badly.

Dhoni aside, the bright spots were Imran Tahir, who at the age of 40 ended with the Purple Cap for most wickets; Faf du Plessis, who eased the burden of scoring runs on Dhoni; and Deepak Chahar whose accuracy and success in the Powerplay overs was a big factor in CSK reaching the final.

ipl purple cap winners list
Imran Tahir finished IPL 2019 with the Purple Cap for most wickets. © BCCI

IPL 2019 record: P 17 W 10 L 7

High point

Beating Delhi Capitals in Qualifier 2. Stung by Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 1, CSK came up against the trickiest team in the league and on the day did well to keep them to 147/9 in 20 overs, and then chased down their target in 19 overs for the loss of four wickets.

Getting good bowling contributions out of Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja and Chahar in this must-win match, and then seeing Watson (50) shown a return to form at the right time was testament to CSK’s belief in backing their core players.

(READ: The dream 11 of IPL 2019, led by MS Dhoni)

Low point

The final. Losing their fourth match in a row this season to Mumbai Indians was a telling statement of CSK’s struggles. Chasing 150, CSK lost Suresh Raina (8), Ambati Rayudu (1) and Dhoni (2) cheaply and then saw Watson run out for 80 in the final over in what proved the ultimate turning point.

ms dhoni ipl 2019
MS Dhoni led CSK to the IPL 2019 final and was their leading run-getter. © BCCI

Captaincy verdict

Once again, Dhoni led CSK astutely into the final, marshalling his team through the good times and the bad with trademark calmness – barring, stunningly, the time he walked onto the field against Rajasthan Royals. It was uncharacteristic of Dhoni and set the wrong impression. No one should be allowed to strut onto the field the way Dhoni did, and the criticism he copped was valid.

That rare outburst aside, Dhoni was his usual self and really made the difference for CSK, both as tactician and batsman.

(READ: Best of IPL 2019 – MI vs CSK in final tops list of five most thrilling last-over finishes)

Most valuable player

Dhoni. Tahir’s 26 wickets were excellent, but subtract Dhoni’s tactical value, alert wicketkeeping and death-overs batting and CSK would not have made the playoffs. The 245 runs he hit in the slog overs, at a strike-rate of 185, were only behind Andre Russell and Hardik Pandya.

How’s that for a man nearing 38?

(READ: MS Dhoni becomes most successful wicketkeeper in IPL history)

Against Royals, Dhoni revived CSK from 27/3 and smashed his highest IPL score of 75 not out from 46 balls, while scoring 35 of the 60 runs CSK managed in their final three overs. Against KXIP, he hit 37* off 23 balls to help CSK to 160/3, which proved more than enough for victory. In the reverse match versus RR, Dhoni made 58 off 43 balls before he was dismissed in the last over of a thriller. When he returned from injury, Dhoni made 44* off 22 balls as CSK defeated Mumbai Indians to reclaim top spot.

Didn’t click in the playoffs, but overall Dhoni was CSK’s driving force.

Ambati Rayudu IPL 2019
Ambati Rayudu scored 282 runs at a strike-rate of 93.06 in IPL 2019. © BCCI

Major disappointment

Rayudu. Played all 17 games, batted 17 times and averaged 23.50 at an awful strike-rate of 93.06. Not what was expected of the man who was central, with Watson, to CSK’s batting in 2018.

(READ: We have to look at recreating the side: CSK coach Stephen Fleming)

Verdict

Watson’s sluggishness and a flabby middle order meant that CSK had to sit out certain players who could have made an impact, and this hurt them. Dhoni, Tahir, du Plessis and Chahar aside, the rest were either inconsistent (Raina, Bravo, Jadeja) or not given enough playing time (Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Santner).

Statistics

Most runs: MS Dhoni – 416 at 83.20, strike-rate 134.62, 50 x 3

Most wickets: Imran Tahir – 26 at 16.57, economy 6.69, strike-rate 14.8, BB 4/12

Highest individual score: 96 – Shane Watson vs SRH, Faf du Plessis vs KXIP

Best bowling in an innings: 4/12 – Imran Tahir vs DC