A lot to ponder for CSK, starting with Dhoni’s future

Team CSK, IPL 2024 (Image: IPL)

Dinesh Karthik gave the team talk after Royal Challengers Bengaluru qualified for the IPL playoffs. He ‘thanked’ MS Dhoni. “MS Dhoni hitting that 110-metre six outside the Chinnaswamy was the best thing that happened. It gave us a new ball which helped us,” Karthik told his RCB teammates.

Yes, a dry ball helped Yash Dayal in the final over, as he bowled his slower deliveries with precision to bring about Chennai Super Kings’ downfall. But chasing 201 to qualify, CSK made their job difficult by opting for a wrong batting order. Why did Mitchell Santner walk out to bat ahead of Dhoni? The former CSK captain was in fine hitting form in this IPL and his workload management notwithstanding, the crunch situation called for the presence of a big player.

Irfan Pathan was right, when he said: “It’s not the time where you say, ‘I have to take care of my knee’. Not the time where you take things a bit lightly. This is the business end now, and if you lose here and in case with a big margin, then you are out of the tournament.”

Throughout the campaign, it felt like Dhoni was on withdrawal mode, starting with handing over the captaincy to Ruturaj Gaikwad to batting lower down the order, even at No. 9 on one occasion. It negatively impacted the team. As for Gaikwad, he didn’t cover himself with glory in pressure situations. In a virtual knockout game against RCB, the new CSK captain was visibly under pressure, dropping a sitter in the field and then perishing for a golden duck.

Some poor cricket against RCB contributed to CSK’s elimination. Shivam Dube’s decision to not sacrifice his wicket, when Rachin Ravindra was going great guns at the other end reeked of appalling game awareness. In the final analysis, it probably cost CSK the game. Dube laboured to a 15-ball seven before he was dismissed. After a rousing first-half of the tournament, he abruptly fell off a cliff, once the opposition bowlers figured out the line and length to bowl to him.


CSK never had the right momentum in their campaign except at the early stage, when they won four out their first six games. Injuries played a part, but atypical to the side, the five-time IPL champions failed to maximise their resources this term. A 7-7 result over 14 games attested inconsistency. In the end, CSK didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs, especially at the expense of a side that won six games on the spin to turn things around.

They badly missed Devon Conway at the top. The Kiwi opener couldn’t take part in the IPL due to a thumb injury and without him, CSK’s opening partnership didn’t gel. Rachin started off on a promising note, but fazed off rapidly and was dropped after a few low scores. The left-hander was brought back to the playing XI towards the back-end of the tournament and in between, his replacement, Moeen Ali, was under-utilised.

Ajinkya Rahane had a forgettable campaign, scoring 242 runs in 12 innings at a strike-rate of 123.46. In all likelihood, he has played his last IPL. CSK bought Daryl Mitchell for Rs 14 core, but the New Zealander had a stop-start season. Sameer Rizvi was expected to be the team’s impact batsman, but at Rs 8.4 crore, the youngster didn’t prove to be value for money.

Ravindra Jadeja wasn’t on top of his game either and Deepak Chahar looked ordinary before picking up yet another injury. Shardul Thakur took five wickets in nine matches at an economy rate of 9.75 and as Sri Lankan fast bowler Matheesha Pathirana suffered a hamstring injury and returned home, along with Bangladesh’s Mustafizur Rahman, who was off for national duty, CSK’s pace attack lost zip.

CSK are an out-and-out cricket franchise with connections to the game’s grassroots and they know that progression in sport is never linear. There will be ups and downs and it is important to accept the good and the bad with equanimity. Gaikwad’s comment at the post-match presentation after the RCB game reflected that.

“To sum up the season, pretty happy with (winning) seven games out of 14. Injuries, not having Conway as well, made a lot of difference. Challenges right from the first game. Pathirana got injured (and) we missed Fizz (Mustafizur Rahman) as well. When you have injuries, it’s difficult to balance the squad… Couldn’t get over the line, but these things can happen,” said the CSK skipper.

CSK will rebuild at the 2025 mega auction. They need to offload a few deadwoods and replace them with a strong Indian core. It’s not yet known if Dhoni will stay or he will hang up his boots. The great man has a mind of his own and he might wait for the IPL’s decision on the Impact Player Rule.