By: Chinmay Vaidya
The Chennai Super Kings returned to the IPL in style, capturing the 2018 championship behind Shane Watson’s brilliant century in the final and cementing their place as the premier franchise in the league.
Watson returned to sublime form after a duck in the first qualifier against Sunrisers. He smashed 117 off 57 deliveries, although it was really off 47 since the first 10 deliveries he faced went for zero runs. In one of the all-time batting displays in IPL history, Watson hammered 11 fours and eight sixes to easily lead the Super Kings past the 179 set by Sunrisers. At one point, Watson decided it was easier to find the boundary rope after suffering a minor leg injury than to stress about singles and doubles.
The Sunrisers got economical performances from their best bowlers but Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan weren’t able to take wickets, leaving that responsibility to the other bowlers. That additional pressure may have contributed to Sandeep Sharma and Siddarth Kaul unraveling in the final.
Chennai’s win added to the lore of the franchise that at one point had reached “superteam” status in the IPL. Many felt at the beginning of the season, myself included, that the members of 2018 squad was a little too past their prime to win the tournament. MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo and Watson clocked in with an average age of 34.25. They ended up combining for 59 percent of Chennai’s runs during the season. The Super Kings also got an amazing contribution from Ambati Rayudu, who exploded for 602 runs after struggling in 2017.
This was Chennai’s third championship and its seventh appearance in the final. In a tournament defined by randomness, the Super Kings have remained the ultimate obstacle. Chennai has not had a losing season in the IPL, making the playoffs in each of its iterations. Call it cricket politics, call it good management or call it luck: the Super Kings capitalized on all their chances and ironically made the league better in their dominance.
There were hurdles throughout the season, such as security issues in Chennai’s home ground, and the cloud of the two-year ban still hovers over the franchise. When a high-ranking official in your franchise is in contact with bookies and the BCCI president is also happens to the managing director of the company owning the Super Kings, it’s hard to accept things will change after a ban. There will always be politics in cricket, especially in Indian cricket, but slowly things did change. The BCCI leadership got changed up. India Cements is no longer the parent company for the franchise. The ban wasn’t great for cricket, but it might be great for the political implications within cricket. The results on the field didn’t change one bit.
For a stretch of four seasons, franchises built their teams with Chennai in mind. It appeared that Chennai’s grasp on the league had faded after the 2015 campaign with a loss to Mumbai in the final, but the Super Kings returned to glory after seven long years.
Greatness always finds a way. Chennai found one in 2018.