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That day finally arrived when MS Dhoni decided to pass on the CSK baton to Ravindra Jadeja, a player at the peak of his career. Jaddu is a monster, arguably the best all-format allrounder the game has even seen. So how does fire-breathing, glass-shattering, sword-wielding Jadeja affect the culture of a side built single handedly by MSD and his team who cracked the IPL code.

To begin with, CSK has always looked upon Dhoni to be their guiding light. His ideas are worshipped. The management backs every call he takes and team’s social media handle celebrates Thala as the wise, capable leader guiding his team and fans on a journey of success after success. All promos, all pre-season anthems feature either a Rajnikanth song or a Vijay song – two movie stars who play roles where one man fights against the odds for his people and his idea. The characters in the movies are hated, adored but never ignored.

To begin with, CSK has always looked upon Dhoni to be their guiding light. His ideas are worshipped.

Last year, the IPL season coincided with the year of Master, Vijay’s mass entertainer and Dhoni was the Vaathi — the leader with purpose and clarity, who rewards hardwork, loyalty and commitment. The team was built to suit Vaathi’s idea of cricket. All his men were largely soft-spoken, experienced, calm and collective individuals without needing to prove anything. CSK never picked a player who might bring backbencher laziness to Vaathi’s team environment. Albie Morkel, a former CSK player, still gets goosebumps seeing Vaathi play. As the saying goes, Dhoni is CSK and CSK is Dhoni.

When CSK won their fourth title, the video of youngster Ruturaj Gaikwad entering the team hotel with trophy went viral, and of couse Dhoni took a backseat during the celebrations. A Vaathi doesn’t do his job for accolades. It’s his purpose to help his students achieve greater heights. And guess the quote that was used for the occasion. “Namma jayichitom maara”, borrowing words of a common man telling Surya, the protagonist of the movie Soorari Pottru. The CSK masculinity has been built since 2008.

The idea of Thala guiding a set of feisty cricketers is also visible in a recent CSK video, following captaincy change.

Jadeja CSK

(Photo Credit: Mathew Hayden Instagram page)

“Those kids who used to walk around with knives are playing with their heart and soul in the game! All they think about are about tournaments and matches. All because of whom??? Bigileeeee”

So what changes with Jadeja at the helm?

Ravindra Jadeja represents the men of the new era, a product of the post-2011 Indian cricket culture. All players who made their mark since then have a few common features. Players like KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Kohli are well built, six-packish sportsmen. The fitness and stamina regime they follow is unmatched. And they take the game to the opponent. They breathe fire on the pitch. There are no calculative measures nor softness on the field. They are aggressive Indian cricketers. Jaddu is the epitome of this culture. The way he bats, the way he fields, the way he bowls – the intensity is palpable. They play to win games, not to make friends. Their motto is “Get in their lads.”

CSK social media team has crafted Jadeja’s image on Allu Arjun’s Pushpa. A fiery, individualistic sandalwood smuggler of the same name. His famous line is, “thagedalee” or I will not back down [from any challenge].

Despite this cultural change at CSK, it is clear that Dhoni will stay till the transition is complete and guide Jadeja. CSK will become Jadeja’s team, but the franchise will always remain Dhoni’s.

Commentator Sanjay Manjrekar once called him a bits and pieces player. But Jadeja has grown over the years in all aspects of the game and nearly helped India to a 2019 world cup semifinal win. He overcame all odds, challenges and brought a certain bite to his game.

Despite this cultural change at CSK, it is clear that Dhoni will stay till the transition is complete and guide Jadeja. CSK will become Jadeja’s team, but the franchise will always remain Dhoni’s.

“I don’t need to worry too much because he’s [Dhoni] here so whenever I have any questions to ask, I’ll definitely go to him. He’ll be my go-to person, he was, and he still is today, so I am not worried too much,” Jadeja said after a practice session in Mumbai.

One could argue that Faf (an old guard) would have been a good short term replacement for Dhoni, instead of Jadeja. But, Jadeja was hand picked by Dhoni to lead CSK. When RCB went for calmness, CSK went for fire. This is the age of chest-thumping, aggressive, nationalistic men.

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