Faith and trust are often overused words in today’s world and can be found in almost every area of life. When talking about personal relationships, it can indicate how comfortable two people are with each other when they share their biggest insecurities.
In a workplace, it’s the camaraderie you enjoy with your colleagues and how far you’ll be willing to go to ensure it enriches your work rather than acting as a hindrance. In families, it is unconditional. Nothing is expected in return, and it is understood that established faith and trust should not be abused.
In sports, however, this dynamic is as unstable as anything on this planet. These can be great buzzwords to use in press conferences and to proclaim to the world what they intend to do as a sports organization. But when teams hit rocky terrain, that notion is put to the test. Not just because of what they said earlier, but because of the immediate ramifications it usually has.
Unsurprisingly, this trait has not been mastered by many sides over the years. Cricket especially in a country like India has also not harbored many such stories considering the innate talent existing in the country and the tickling feeling that the person waiting in the bush is better than the one in the hand. The Chennai Super Kings (CSK), however, are perhaps the anomaly among this particular debris.
Throughout their famous history, they’ve relied on the mantra that boredom is best. While other teams tried to mix their packs, CSK just believed in their pack and built trust. MS Dhoni, who has called the shots quite often for the franchise, has been at the forefront of this ethos.
This season, however, he is not in charge. This is Ravindra Jadeja. So there was a chance that CSK would abandon what it had been doing all these years and adopt something more pragmatic. But if early evidence is to be believed, including the crushing defeats to Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants, it seems the status quo is still intact.
This did not lead to as much success as in the past. That, however, is just one indication of CSK’s firmness in their approach and how it will take more than a lonely mediocre season to undo years of hard work.
Before we dissect the game against the Titans, it’s important to take a look at their game against LSG – a game they should have won but ultimately managed to lose. At Brabourne Stadium, CSK found themselves on cruise control, with KL Rahul’s men needing 34 runs from 2 overs.
As the game snaked around this moment, whispers had begun that CSK had miscalculated. Dwaine Pretorius and Dwayne Bravo had been bowling, meaning one of Jadeja, Moeen Ali, Mukesh Choudhary or Shivam Dube had to knock down the penultimate, with someone else knocking down the final.
CSK bet on Dube, who hasn’t been a regular bowler in the IPL but can handle himself. It backfired in spectacular fashion as he conceded 25 points and gave LSG the initiative they craved. It would have been very easy to dismiss Dube, although the all-rounder scored 49 points in that game. But they didn’t. A few matches later, Dube carried out one of the greatest blitzes in the history of the competition against the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
CSK were also well placed against the Titans. They had cruised to 124/3 in 14 overs and looked set to break the 180-point barrier. When Ambati Rayudu dropped to 15th, many expected Jadeja to come out considering he is arguably the best finisher in the IPL. CSK, however, opted for Dube – probably as a reward for what he did against RCB. It didn’t quite yield the desired result, with them huffing and puffing at 169.
Chris Jordan failed to deliver for CSK against GT
During the chase, the 2021 champions had to defend 48 runs from 3 overs. They also had Bravo up their sleeve and had Chris Jordan – a seasoned campaigner, to pitch the remaining two overs. The Englishman, however, crumbled under the pressure.
He played an assortment of slot machine deliveries and was beaten for 25 runs. The equation, which was skewed towards CSK, suddenly reversed, with the Titans becoming the upside. Bravo won a relatively tidy 19th and represented Alzarri Joseph and Rashid Khan. But with Jordan having leaked so many runs, the biggest dilemma was who would topple the final.
In the end, they trusted the Englishman, despite what happened a few minutes ago. In hindsight, it was the worst possible decision they could have made, considering the tapping he had taken against Rashid. But upon deeper soul-searching, this was exactly the kind of decision CSK would make and the kind of call they often had the courage to make.
It didn’t go down too well on social media. Naturally. While some of the abuse aimed at Jordan wasn’t appreciable, a lot of the criticism was warranted, given that he’s fallen off a cliff too many times over the past two years. As it stands, he has an over 10 save rate in deaths since the start of 2020 and has conceded over 13 points more in this phase in 2022.
From this point of view, it was a bet. But for CSK, it was a punt based on the confidence they had in what Jordan has done historically. At one point he was one of the top five death bowlers in the world. He is far from recovering this place at the moment. However, he has already scaled this perch.
And that’s probably what CSK takes into account more than most teams. They tend to prefer players who have been through the grind and proven themselves on the bigger stage. Over the years, there haven’t been many occasions where their brazen trust in the players hasn’t translated into tangible rewards.
Gaikwad, who had a torrid start to his IPL career in 2020, returned to win the Orange Cap a year later. The opening hitter also got off to a horrible start in 2022, only for him to crush a half-century against the Titans.
Jadeja, too, didn’t quite realize her potential in the first exchanges of her career at CSK. And here he is now, hoping to lead the franchise into a new era. There were even question marks over Dhoni’s durability after an indifferent stint at the Rising Pune Supergiant(s). But they stuck with him and he led them to two titles in four years.
From a collective point of view, the temptation would have been very strong to fine-tune things after a questionable 2020 campaign. They only added Josh Hazlewood and Moeen Ali to their roster and won the whole thing a year later.
There are countless stories of CSK supporting a player or the team when all the logic and wisdom of cricket suggests otherwise. Several of them have also been successful. This time around, it didn’t quite materialize. Don’t be surprised, however, if they take a similar approach whenever the next opportunity arises.
CSK always lives by the sword of trust and dies by it. It works most of the time. Sometimes that’s not the case. But it’s CSK, win or lose. Faith and trust remain overused terms in today’s world. The defending champions, however, use it pretty much correctly.