“You do get emotional; the first game at CSK everyone was chanting my name. My eyes were full of tears,” said an emotional Mahendra Singh Dhoni as he led Chennai Super Kings to a record fifth IPL final on Monday.
So without going into the details of how and where Gujarat Titans, led by future India captain Hardik Pandya, lost the IPL final, it is imperative to compare the success mantras of both teams, that are strikingly similar.
Especially as Chennai-born batter Sai Sudharsan smashed an inexperienced CSK bowling lineup over after over. If the Titans had gone on to win the match, fingers would have been pointed at CSK for not picking and backing Tamil Nadu players such as Sai, Vijay Shankar and Sai Kishore. The trio has played a big part in Titans’ charge to the second IPL final in as many years.
If the Titans had gone on to win the match, fingers would have been pointed at CSK for not picking and backing Tamil Nadu players such as Sai, Vijay Shankar and Sai Kishore
Sudharsan, who was picked up by Gujarat Titans for just Rs. 20 lakh, had scored 358 runs from 8 innings with a strike rate of 143.77 in the Tamil Nadu Premier League 2021 season. He was the second highest run-scorer in TNPL and was instrumental in taking Lyca Kovai Kings to the knockout stages. His impact was such that Kovai Kings broke the bank and paid over Rs 20 lakh in the first-ever TNPL auction to secure his services for the 2023 season.
However, unlike Kovai Kings, Chennai Super Kings did not bid for the youngster but instead paid a base price of Rs 50 lakh to secure the services of veteran Ajinkya Rahane. With Rahane, Rayudu and Dhoni all at the last dance of their career, it was clear that CSK was gunning for short term success and not long-term talent development.
But it will be wrong to say that CSK does not focus on youth development. It is just that the players they handpick to undergo development are mostly bowlers and not Tamil Nadu-born. The likes of Pathirana, Mukesh Chowdhury, Akash Singh and even Tushar Deshpande have flourished in their roles under CSK management.
The question is, does it really matter? CSK has won the title five times and has played in 10 finals. Gujarat too are aiming for that consistency. Both teams back their players and ensure they get a good run in the side.
Like CSK, Gujarat does not have many players who are Gujarat-born. Ravindra Jadeja, CSK’s rockstar, who played a title winning cameo scoring 10 off final two balls against a resurgent Mohit Sharma, was playing in his home town Ahmedabad.
If IPL teams were to buy players based on their regionalities, Jadeja might have ended up in the Titans’ dressing room and Sai Sudharshan in CSK’s. If this idea was enforced then RCB’s heartbeat Virat Kohli would be wearing his pads for Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians pace sensation Jasprit Bumrah will be plying his trade for the Titans.
State-wise restrictions could kill the game and tilt the league in favour of teams who have a strong domestic setup. The likes of Mumbai, Chennai, and Delhi would then go on to dominate the league and many players from states like Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala will miss out
So in franchise cricket, it doesn’t really matter which team one plays for. IPL cricket is about entertainment, exactly what the Titans and CSK provided last night. The game is played for the fans. For the likes of the 75,000 who showed up for the rain-affected IPL final. It is also for the players, who do not want to end up in a place they don’t belong. State-wise restrictions could kill the game and tilt the league in favour of teams who have a strong domestic setup. The likes of Mumbai, Chennai, and Delhi would then go on to dominate the league and many players from states like Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala will miss out. Be that as it may, for now enjoy the CSK dominance. Domestic cricket leagues will help state players and IPL will continue to give them a platform when they are ready.
This is what the future of the game looks like. Players signing contracts for franchises and playing very little state or international games. The game of cricket has changed and the likes of Sai Sudharsan and Ravindra Jadeja among others are at the centre of this change.