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Team review: Ageing Chennai Super Kings need an immediate revamp

The performances of Curran, Gaikwad and Jadeja, however, showed there's hope for the future

Deivarayan Muthu
MS Dhoni won't go on forever, so the Super Kings will need to assemble a new core group for the future

MS Dhoni won't go on forever, so the Super Kings will need to assemble a new core group for the future  •  BCCI

Where did they finish?
Second from bottom with 12 points and a net run rate of minus 0.455, failing to make the playoffs for the first time in the 11 seasons they've been involved in.
What went right?
Sam Curran starred with the ball, bat, and in the field, showing he could be one of the key building blocks of a new-look Super Kings team in the future. The 22-year-old finished as the Super Kings' highest wicket-taker with 13 strikes in 13 innings at an economy rate of 8.19. With the bat, he came straight out of quarantine and won the Super Kings the tournament-opener against the Mumbai Indians before making another match-winning contribution as an opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Ruturaj Gaikwad's three half-centuries towards the end not only helped the Super Kings exit the tournament on a high, but also gave the team management and fans hope that the future isn't too bad after all.
With Shane Watson managing just two fifties in 11 innings, Faf du Plessis carried the batting line-up with 449 runs in 13 innings at a strike rate of 140.75. Among openers who faced at least 100 balls in the powerplay, du Plessis' strike rate of 138.21 was behind only Ben Stokes' 142.74. In an ageing Super Kings side, he was a bit of an oddity in the field as well, patrolling the long-on and long-off boundaries with his magnetic hands.
What went wrong?
A lot. Let's start with MS Dhoni, whose personal worst season coincided with the team's worst season. For the first time in 13 IPL seasons, Dhoni ended without a single half-century. Dhoni - and coach Stephen Fleming - were probably too rigid with their tactics, opting against replacements for Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh who had both pulled out of the tournament.
They backed their senior players hoping they would click at some point, but that didn't come to pass as Kedar Jadhav, M Vijay and Watson struggled with the bat and in the field. Injuries to Dwayne Bravo, Ambati Rayudu and du Plessis at various points in the season didn't help them either. And by the time they identified their most balanced XI, recalling Gaikwad, Imran Tahir and Lungi Ngidi, they were all but out of contention for the playoffs.
Away from Chepauk, their spinners lacked penetration. Ravindra Jadeja managed only six wickets - his joint second-fewest tally in an IPL season - at an average of 53.00 and economy rate of 8.75. Piyush Chawla and Karn Sharma, the two Indian legspinners, were only defensive at best and the Super Kings perhaps erred in not giving the more attacking and experienced Tahir a go sooner in the tournament. After being the top wicket-taker in IPL 2019, Tahir got only three games for the solitary wicket of Chris Gayle this season.
Key numbers
  • Dhoni made only 200 runs, his lowest tally in an IPL season, at a strike rate of 116.27, his second-lowest in an IPL season. Dhoni's seven sixes were also his fewest in an IPL season.
  • The Super Kings had the second-worst run rate of all teams in the powerplay (7.13) as well as the middle overs (7.37). They did step it up in the death, though, with a run rate of 11.06. Only Mumbai had a better run rate than the Super Kings in this phase.
Star performers
In his first IPL season with the Super Kings, Curran was their do-it-all boy, winning Dhoni's trust and exceeding Fleming's expectations.
After recovering from Covid-19 and a rough start to the league in the middle order, Gaikwad made a belated but strong impact at the top with his lofted drives and punches against both pace and spin. He became the first Super Kings batsman to score three successive fifties.
Jadeja revelled in the finishing role, striking at 214.11 from overs 17 to 20. Among batsmen who faced a minimum of 70 balls this season, only Kieron Pollard, AB de Villiers, Hardik Pandya and Eoin Morgan had a better strike rate than Jadeja at the death.
What needs immediate fixing?
Both Dhoni and Fleming have admitted that the Super Kings need to revamp their core group for the next decade. Releasing the likes of Jadhav, Chawla, Vijay and Raina, who has had fitness issues and hasn't played any competitive cricket since IPL 2019, can enhance their purse ahead of the next auction, where they could hunt for younger batsmen and spinners. With Dhoni the batsman fading away, they also need a finisher who can share the load with Jadeja.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo