After a great playoff, the rare two-phased IPL 2021 got its winners, none other than MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings or “Comeback” Super Kings, having dominated every other IPL team this season. They had an arduous 2020 season and several so-called experts of the game called it quits over the world’s most successful captain citing that his time was over.

While that may seem true in some sense when Dhoni’s batting is considered, CSK’s “Thala” proved his competence with the bat in the dying moments of Qualifier 1 when several eyebrows raised after he came out to bat before Ravindra Jadeja, Chennai’s or probably this year’s best IPL batsman in the death overs.

Dhoni’s experience and his skills to make the most of an instinctive mind has always kept him in a different league than all the captains in the world but this season was more of a  team effort, as every player passionately helped the franchise gain its reputation after an unfortunate season in 2020.

All this being said, let’s have a look at Chennai’s top performers this season.

Ruturaj Gaikwad 

IPL 2021’s Emerging Player of the Season, Ruturaj Gaikwad also dethroned KL Rahul to become the Orange Cap winner of this season. He finished the tournament with 635 runs in 16 matches with an average of 45.36 that incorporated four 50s and an unbeaten ton (101*).

His ton made him the youngest CSK batsman to score a century and the 24-year-old’s 100 was also this season’s joint-third highest individual score. His average is also the fifth-most in this season and third-most if we take the batsmen with a minimum of 10 innings played. Ruturaj Gaikwad also scored the most boundaries this season (64), 1 more than Shikhar Dhawan, and the talented youngster also scored the joint-second-most sixes (23) only behind KL Rahul.

The best part and the most fascinating part about his batting was the fact that his shots were mostly authentic and we saw a batsman hitting bowlers everywhere with conventional strokes in a T20. Hopefully, in the upcoming mega auctions, wherever Ruturaj goes, he will be valued and it will be interesting to see how much value the youngster holds in the minds of the team owners.

Faf Du Plessis

Well, if you witnessed this side of Ruturaj Gaikwad, after the skipper and the management staff, all the credit goes to this man, Faf Du Plessis not only played his part in the team as a destructive opener and a fantastic fielder, he also ensured Gaikwad never hesitates to express himself. Surely, there were some failures but the fact that the duo took down every franchise’s bowling shows how lucky teams would feel seeing the mega auction lying ahead.

Faf Du Plessis scored 633 runs in 16 matches this season and was the second-highest run-scorer in this season, the opening duo surpassing KL Rahul in the final game of the season. This made the duo the third-highest and one of the most successful opening duos in IPL’s history. Faf Du Plessis finished the season with an average of 45.21 just the slightest of margins between him and his partner.

Faf scored the most 50s this season (6), joint-most with KL Rahul, and Glenn Maxwell. He scored 60 4s, four less than Ruturaj, and scored as many sixes as Ruturaj (23). This proves how deadly this pair was. Faf’s experience in the middle was always crucial and you can only feel pity for South Africa to have left out such a player from their T20 World Cup squad after he performed so well in UAE and most importantly in a final. You can see South Africa’s squad for the T20 World cup here.

Ravindra Jadeja 

Any match that starts well, should also end well. And this season, it was Jadeja who single-handedly took the job of ending things on a high. Jadeja’s strike rate in the death overs was sky high and he concluded the season with the highest average as well (75.67). Jadeja’s strike rate in the season was 145.51, while he scored 227 runs.

The all-rounder also picked 13 wickets at an average of 26.61. Jadeja also picked 13 catches and his highlight or you can say one of the highlights of this season was Jadeja scoring 37 off the final over against Harshal Patel, a bowler who won the purple cap in a record fashion.

Jadeja’s energy on the field was also unmatched and his performances in cricket since the 2019 Cricket World Cup have always been on the rise.

Shardul Thakur

Shardul Thakur or “Lord” Thakur as the internet world calls him, not only had his best IPL season but he also had a great year as an Indian international. Thakur was CSK’s highest wicket-taker this season and he picked 21 wickets, at an average of 25.10.

He also picked 3 wickets in the final and the wickets came at the most crucial stage for Chennai. Venkatesh Iyer and Shubman Gill were taking the game away from CSK and that is exactly when Thakur struck. He then dismissed Nitish Rana for a golden duck and then later, he dismissed Rahul Tripathi who unfortunately couldn’t bat to his full potential due to an injury while fielding in the first innings.

Moeen Ali, Ambati Rayudu, Dwayne Bravo, Suresh Raina, Deepak Chahar, Sam Curran, and Josh Hazlewood were the other players whose contribution may not be on everyone’s back of the mind but they were equally pivotal in Chennai’s win this season.

Special mention to Robin Uthappa who replaced an injured Raina in the last few league games and also the playoffs but performed brilliantly in key moments. His half-century in the Qualifier 1 was very significant for CSK as they had lost an early wicket, while his 31-run knock in the final helped Chennai to keep up with their momentum after Ruturaj’s wicket. 

As mentioned before, it was a team win this season and last but not least, this would’ve been not possible without MS Dhoni. While people may question his numbers, CSK’s Thala was spot on most of the time with his DRS calls, bowling distribution, tactical approach, demanding the best from his team even if the game was over, and finally, for that match-saving knock in his vintage-style against Delhi in the Qualifier 1.

What do you think? Which players would be retained by CSK? Who will be added to the squad next year? Which players will be leaving? Follow Cricwizz on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for all these updates, and stay tuned with Cricwizz for the best cricket content. 

Cover Credits: IPLT20