Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Thursday lauded his team for making a strong comeback following a dismal showing last season after they qualified for the IPL playoffs for the 11th time in 12 attempts.

CSK, the three-time former champions, had a disappointing outing last year when they failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in their history. It was an abject season in UAE, littered by off-field issues and on-field struggles. But when it ended, Dhoni said bouncing back is what his side do. “We’ll come back stronger, that’s what we are known for,” he had said.

And just like that, the Dhoni-led team made a remarkable turnaround this year as they became the first team to qualify for the knockout stage after beating SRH by six wickets in Sharjah.

“It means a lot, because the last time, we said we wanted to come back strong. We are known for that and there was a lot at stake,” Dhoni said in the post-match presentation after sealing the win a six for a bit of memorable throwback for CSK and India fans.

“You won’t always win games and a lot didn’t go our way last time, and it’s important not to make excuses and we have done that this year.”

CSK have failed to qualify for the semi-finals or the playoffs just once in their history. That happened last season.

Chennai Super Kings' performance in IPL

Year Played Wins Losses Tied NR
2008 16 9 7 0 0
2009 15 8 6 0 1
2010 16 9 7 0 0
2011 16 11 5 0 0
2012 19 10 8 0 1
2013 18 12 6 0 0
2014 16 10 6 0 0
2015 17 10 7 0 0
2016 - - - - -
2017 - - - - -
2018 16 11 5 0 0
2019 17 10 7 0 0
2020 14 6 8 0 0
2021* 10* 8 2 0 0
* -Ongoing
Season League stage finish Playoff result
IPL 2008 3rd Lost in the final
IPL 2009 2nd Lost in the semi-final
IPL 2010 3rd Champions
IPL 2011 2nd out of 10 Champions
IPL 2012 4th out of 9 Lost in the final
IPL 2013 1st out of 9 Lost in the final
IPL 2014 3rd Won in Eliminator, Lost in Qualifier 2
IPL 2015 1st Runners-up
IPL 2016 Suspended
IPL 2017 Suspended
IPL 2018 2nd Champions
IPL 2019 2nd Lost in the final
IPL 2020 7th ––
* -Ongoing

Crediting the team for the turnaround, Dhoni said: “The boys did well to keep the momentum going, and they’ve taken responsibilities to keep all departments of the game in balance so the players and the support staff get the credit.”

Opting to bowl, CSK managed to restrict SRH to 134 for 7 on the slow Sharjah wicket.

Dhoni said: “The bounce of the wicket was different - instead of knee height, it was shin height, and once the batsmen figured out that they have to hit straight, they succeeded.

“The bowlers tried to swing it upfront and got hit straight when then pitched it up too much, but then adjusted very well.

“I told the bowlers that they needed to exploit the conditions in today’s game. If the odd ball stopped early on, it started coming onto the bat later.”

CSK has won all the four matches in the UAE leg and now sit comfortably at the top with 18 points.

Opener Faf du Plessis, who scored 41, credited the balance of the team and its aggressive cricket for the turnaround this season.

“Our batting line-up is long, we have guys coming in and batting aggressively all the time, so even if one takes wickets, they’ll be batters coming out to score runs. Moeen has been a good addition as a second spinner,” he said.

“The balance I think is very good, that’s one reason for us doing well this season.”

SRH skipper Kane Williamson admitted they just didn’t have enough runs on the board to put pressure on CSK. On four points, SRH are heading for the joint worst tally in the IPL league phase history. Deccan Chargers and Delhi Daredevils in the past have finished last with four points.

“Not quite enough runs. It wasn’t an easy surface and although we didn’t get enough we showed a fighting spirit in the last quarter with the ball,” he said.

“We need 10-15 extra runs with the bat though and we need to make those small changes. After the powerplay we were 40-something and although you feel like you want more, it was a good start on that surface.

“You want to score a few more runs though, but we saw some nice contributions from the lower order. We need to improve ...This season has been a bit disjointed given that it was played in two halves, but we’ll look to grow and build some momentum.”

(With PTI inputs)