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The Super Kings ride again, but it might be time for some fresh blood

Shardul Thakur's running, tumbling catch off Krunal Pandya pleased MS Dhoni BCCI

Where did they finish?

Ten playoffs in ten seasons, in the final on eight of those occasions, and they fell two runs short of their fourth IPL crown, a record their conquerors - Mumbai Indians - are now proud owners of.

What went right?

Their bowling were exceptional. Deepak Chahar was impressive with his Powerplay performances, and on the rare occasions that he was taken apart, like in the final, Shardul Thakur put his hand up.

With 26 wickets, Imran Tahir proved he was far from finished at 40. He kept the middle overs quiet, and gave MS Dhoni the control he loves to have on the slow Chepauk tracks. Not far below him were Ravindra Jadeja and Harbhajan Singh, who proved he still has some gas left in the tank at 37.

He may have lost the fizz in his delivery and the bounce that once made him as dangerous as Anil Kumble at home, but Harbhajan's control and guile upfront with the new ball made him Dhoni's go-to bowler at home.

What went wrong?

The middle order couldn't deliver. As the tournament progressed, Ambati Rayudu was being reminded of his 3D jibe with every poor outing, Shane Watson kept eating up dot balls in the Powerplay, which reflected in an overall run rate of 6.29 during this passage, the poorest among all sides this season. Suresh Raina was a pale shadow of his former self in the yellow of Chennai, both with the bat and on the field. Because the middle order was misfiring, they had to try and slot in M Vijay and Dhruv Shorey, two top-order batsmen, lower down. This meant Mitchell Santner had to sit out, and this affected team balance.

Key numbers

  • The 60 wickets the Super Kings spinners picked up are the most by spinners in a single IPL season.

  • Dhoni's 245 runs were the third-most in the death overs, after Andre Russell and Hardik Pandya. He struck them at a strike rate of 185.

Star performers

MS Dhoni was back to being his destructive self with the bat, especially at the death. His wicketkeeping reflexes continued to be lightning and no opponent could relax while he was around. He brought dead games back into the realms of possibility, as Royal Challengers Bangalore found out, and was always one up on the opposition with his on-field tactics. There may be murmurs over his international retirement, but there was plenty to suggest Dhoni the Super King still had enough left in him even if he kept everyone guessing with his "hopefully, yes" quip when asked about his return in 2020.

Faf du Plessis reinvented the wheel and was chiefly responsible for driving the batting, allowing Dhoni a hint of breathing space before teeing off. Earlier, du Plessis often had to fight for his position or had to miss out if team balance warranted that. This year, however, he was a constant for most parts and he delivered. On the field, he was among the fast movers that stood out amid a number of "safe fielders", as Dhoni put it.

What needs immediate fix?

They need to start looking for Dhoni's successor and slowly groom some youngsters. The team looked helpless on the two occasions Dhoni missed out because of illness. They may also consider looking for strong young Indian middle-order bats who can also bring in a new dimension to the side's fielding.

This article had earlier mentioned Super Kings were seven-time finalists. This has been corrected.