IPL 2012 May 24, 2012

Far from their best, but not far from title

Super Kings had a mixed 2012, with more lows than highs, yet they almost won their third IPL title in a row

Where they finished

Second. They were chasing a hat-trick of IPL titles on Sunday at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, but came up against a determined Kolkata Knight Riders. It did not look as though they would even go that far after a shoddy showing in the league stage, but fortune put them in the playoffs and, in familiar territory, they almost made it count.

Key player

Super Kings' strengths have always been their batting and spin bowling. The fast-bowling cupboard has often looked bare. Yet, in 2010*, when the team was struggling, it was the arrival of Australia quick Doug Bollinger mid-way through the season that galvanised the team. Similarly, this season, just when it looked like their campaign was coming apart, another Australia fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus arrived from the West Indies and quickly settled in to become an important cog in the Super Kings set-up.

Hilfenhaus had missed the previous IPL with injury and, debuting this year, he faced a set-back in only his second game: Super Kings had all but won the match against Mumbai Indians, when Hilfenhaus produced two full tosses and a length ball for the final three deliveries, letting Dwayne Smith knock off the 14 runs his team needed. But Hilfenhaus wasn't to be shaken. In the next game, against Rajasthan Royals, he produced figures of 4-1-8-2 (the '2' being the wickets of Shane Watson and Rahul Dravid), and then destroyed Delhi Daredevils with a spell (3-0-14-3) that accounted for Virender Sehwag, David Warner and Naman Ojha.

It took Hilfenhaus only nine games to take as many wickets as R Ashwin, who is arguably Super Kings' most dependable bowler over the last three seasons. And those 14 wickets came at an average of 16.64 and economy rate of 6.85. In the final, Hilfenhaus cleaned up Knight Riders' lynchpin Gautam Gambhir in the first over of the chase, beaten by a slower one, and then claimed the well-set Jacques Kallis in a tight finish. Much like against Mumbai Indians though, two full tosses at the very end cost his team.

Flop buy

Super Kings bought one player at the 2012 auction: Ravindra Jadeja. They had spent their full purse on him, making him the IPL's newest two-million dollar man. Billed as an allrounder, he bowled more than two overs only six times in 18 games. In the second qualifier and the final, he neither batted nor bowled. And when he did get his chance to contribute in either department, he did nothing much of note. He finished with 191 runs and 12 wickets - of which 48 runs and five wickets came against Deccan Chargers. The Chargers game apart, the only game-changing hand he played was against Royal Challengers Bangalore: he managed to edge away the final delivery for four to third man, to seal Super Kings' thrilling chase of 206.


"We know how to win trophies," Albie Morkel had said during the last stage of the league games, when it looked like Super Kings might not progress. "I think we need the luck element and we will be all right." Fortune might have put them in the final four, but once there, they justified their place. In the eliminator against Mumbai Indians, they looked a completely different side to the one that bumbled through the league phase. The batting and bowling clicked together and, more crucially, Super Kings showed the tenacity they have come to be associated with in testing situations. They were 2 for 1, before Michael Hussey and S Badrinath rallied, and MS Dhoni and Bravo counterattacked to carry the side to 187, a total that proved way beyond the reach of a powerful Mumbai Indians line-up. That performance breathed new life into their season, and suddenly many rated them as favourites for the title once more.


Yes, nothing could hurt much more than losing the final, but it was another defeat that left Super Kings in a much worse position. The team is used to a last-minute scramble to make the playoffs, and up until this year's match against Kings XI Punjab in Dharamsala, was used to coming out on top in such situations. But a batting failure meant they had only 120 to defend on the small Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association ground, with the rarefied atmosphere. If Super Kings hoped to pull off a heist, Adam Gilchrist, returning from a month-long injury layoff, squashed all such thoughts with an unbeaten 64 off 46. It looked, then, that Super Kings, the defending champions, had failed to make the IPL playoffs for the first time in five seasons.


Super Kings had a mixed 2012, with more lows than highs, yet they almost won their third IPL title in a row.

In the league phase, they played arguably their worst cricket in five seasons. The batting, despite power-hitter-packed middle order, repeatedly failed to finish strongly. That meant, once again, Super Kings needed to win four of four to shore up their chances of progressing. And just when it looked like that is what they would do - they had beaten table-toppers Delhi Daredevils and Knight Riders in consecutive games - the Dharamsala flop happened.

Yet, things fell into place. The three other results they were waiting on, amazingly, went their way, and Super Kings sneaked in as the fourth team. And suddenly, Super Kings were back in their champions avatar. After the high of the eliminator, against Daredevils in the second qualifier, they were ruthless. M Vijay produced that one game-changing innings he tends to play every season, and, with the runs flowing, a listless Daredevils quickly faded out of contention. In the final, but for the spirited Manvinder Bisla - or even despite him - Super Kings could have edged home. Still, after the sub-standard showing in the league stage, Super Kings will take second.

The one area where Super Kings consistently outdid their opposition this season was fielding. If you look at their line-up, you'd probably say the only fielding liabilities are Shadab Jakati and Ashwin, and when you saw these two throwing themselves at the ball to stop a boundary (think Jakati in the final) and diving forward to claim a catch (think Ashwin's catch to dismiss Shane Watson), you knew you were up against it in the field. Seeing as they make so few changes to their squad, it's an element of their IPL season they'll be hoping to carry into Champions League T20 this October.

*10.40 GMT, May 29: The article had said 2012, this has been changed.

Nikita Bastian is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 31, 2012, 10:47 GMT

    CSK is the only "team": Dhoni, Raina, Vijay, Badri, Morkel, Ashwin, Jagati were all in the first season, and continue to be the core of the team today. Even Balaji and Murali were sought after by CSK after the 3rd year, but lost them to other teams. At the end of the day, in a format rife with so much chance, a close knit team makes all the difference. Come next year, not to worry, it will be 5/6 finals, 3/6 wins. If there is a "team" to back, it is CSK.

  • Shiv on May 30, 2012, 16:37 GMT

    Id be happy if Dhoni is fired from the Indian Test team.

  • fermin on May 30, 2012, 16:12 GMT

    It was a real contest between an arrogant gambhir and cool headed dhoni. It was Gauti's persoal rivalry and he managed to won the battle. At times, Gauti may be appointed as Indian Captain. We may see the likes of Bisla, Das at that time under his helm.

  • vas on May 30, 2012, 12:44 GMT

    Amazing finals.Congratulations KKR. Narine is special. I'm very happy the way CSK played with never say die attitude. League phase they managed to get 17 points and better run rate to beat other 5 teams to go to the play off. Others couldn't do it. That is the way the league system works.Nothing to do with luck.They beat DD and KKR in the league games.CSK is the most consistant team in all IPL. 4 finals in 5 yrs.Proud CSK fan.

  • John on May 30, 2012, 9:51 GMT

    Thoroughly satisfying season for a CSK fan

  • Dummy4 on May 30, 2012, 1:05 GMT

    CSK has achieved more than any other teams in IPL. Out of 5 they qualifed 4 times to semi finals. Played 4 times finals and won 2 times, 2 times runner up. One time Champions league trophy holder. CSK should be proud of their achievements. No other team has this record so far. Other teams have a long way catch up this record. CSK has nothing more to achieve and it is time for other teams to put their names on tropy. Well done CSK.

  • Dummy4 on May 29, 2012, 18:04 GMT

    Read the "Verdict Para" at the end

  • Dummy4 on May 29, 2012, 14:13 GMT

    this year CSKs main problem was that ; it was only a few times when theor both depts, bowling and batting fired in unison. otherwise when their batsmen did good job , bowlers let them down and when bowlers did well , batsmen crumbled .CSK in 2011 was perhaps the best winner team out of all 5 season winners coz it wasnt one man army but each and every member ; right from saha to hussey and from jakati to bollinger had played their roles . But this time CSk was hugely dependent on faf-bravo-husey-hilf n to sm extent dhoni. their strong indian strength cameinto pic rather late with vijay n raina doing well in QF n final. and in finale ; they were pretty much relaxed after they sent back gambhir early since last time too they had sent gayle back early and won the game easily but they forgot that KKRs bating line up is more balanced than RCBs one. well, CSK will be back stronger next time lets hopw , learning from mistakes

  • rahul on May 29, 2012, 13:52 GMT

    @pravin4honest mark . sad to say but we have already waited for almost 3 years but jadeja never looks like a qulaity player . he has played 58 odis for india , but is yet to cross 1000 run mark , his batting average is 27 , strike rate is 78 , bowling avg is 38 . do we really need this guy . don't know on what basis you compared jadeja with yuvi who is a champion & lionheart player .

  • Dummy4 on May 29, 2012, 11:30 GMT

    What impressed me the most in CSK in 2012 is their tenacity in every single match. Their confidence. Never-say-die attitude until the end. What irritated me most in the CSK in 2012 is Bravo's over action dance moves. The way he insulted the other team players. How he tried too hard and too loud to impress. But hey, I'm not a CSK fan.

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