MS Dhoni on Saturday decoded Chennai Super Kings’s formula for success after they qualified for the playoffs for the 12th time in their 14 editions in the Indian Premier League. Defeating Delhi Capitals by a thumping 77 runs, the Men in Yellow also ensured a Top 2 finish in the points table. As a result, they will play against the table toppers and defending champions Gujarat Titans in Qualifier 1 on May 23.

Although CSK did not have the best start to the tournament, they bounced back well as the tournament progressed and towards the business-end of the group stage to ensure that they keep up with their rich history.

Talking about their success in the post-match presentation, Dhoni said, “There is no recipe for success, you try and pick the best players and give them the best slot to perform and where they have the best chance of performing. And at the same time, groom them in the areas where they are not very strong, it maybe a batter, it may be a bowler... somebody has to sacrifice their slot for the team. Somehow, whatever is best for the team, if you are doing that then everyone falls into line and they all want to contribute.

“I feel that the management has been great as well, including the support staff. They always back us, they always tell us, ‘Don’t worry, keep doing what you are doing, you will do well.’ I feel all these things together have a big impact. That is among the reasons we have been successful. But, the players are most important, without the players, you may have the environment but I feel players are also the key,” he added.

With players like Devon Conway, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ajinkya Rahane, Shivam Dube, Tushar Deshpande and Mateesha Pathirana each having a season to remember, CSK had players contributing to the team’s cause on multiple occasions.

The trick to becoming a player that CSK and Dhoni back to the hilt is to have a ‘team first’ philosophy.

“You need somebody who is always ‘team first’ and it’s not about the individual performance. I want them to contribute in the best possible manner and they are not worried about the individual performance,” he explained.

“What they are looking at is how they are looking at getting into the knockout stages, how they can be consistent and how they can give the match-winning delivery at the knockout stages. I feel those are the kind of characters we look for but from a distance, it’s very difficult to judge players and what has really happened for us is they see our environment. We try and adjust to the players and environment as well and then they try their best to adjust to the environment and we are very happy with that. Even if they come 10%, we can adjust 50% to fit them better into the team,” he said.

Coming into the season, death bowling was considered a weak link for CSK, especially in the absence of Dwayne Bravo. However, after a few hiccups in the initial games, players like Deshpande, Pathirana and Maheesh Theekshana turned it around to ensure that death bowling wasn’t a major concern after all.

“I think with death bowling, confidence is very important. If you look at Tushar from the first game till now, he has developed death bowling. The main reason is the confidence. They always execute what is needed but how many times you can execute under pressure, that’s the main thing. When you have that confidence behind you, then you execute more often than not. So, I feel when you keep playing the same guys, that also helps,” said Dhoni.

He added: “Behind the scenes as well, a lot of work goes on for death bowling as to what needs to be done, what can be done. I feel the bowlers have also taken the responsibility, Pathirana is quite a natural to bowling at the death so that’s one less headache.”