In Focus: Chennai Super Kings

Every sport has its marquee names. These are the teams that carry the sport and turn themselves into a big brand. Be it the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA, or Manchester United in club football, or Brazil in international football or even the West Indies cricket team of the 1970s. When we specifically talk about cricket, New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield or Yorkshire in the County Championship – we have teams that are synonymous with tournaments. Like what Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The IPL is not just the premier T20 league tournament in the world, it is the cash cow of the richest cricket board in the world – the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The brand value of IPL is a whopping $6.8 billion and the current edition is in limbo due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, take nothing away from the tournament’s brand equity of the IPL or one of its biggest franchises – the Chennai Super Kings.

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Who are the Chennai Super Kings?

Founded in 2008 and based in the cricket-crazy city of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, the Chennai Super Kings is one of the most successful franchises in IPL. Sold to India Cements for $91 million in January 2008, the Chennai Super Kings started as the fourth-most expensive team in the league behind Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, and Sunrisers Hyderabad (who started as Deccan Chargers). The brand value of the Super Kings has soared since then, with the team now valued at ~$104 million, making them the second-most valuable franchise behind the Mumbai Indians (~$115 million).

A Franchise Built on Success

So, what makes the Chennai Super Kings so successful? It’s a combination of on-field and off-field success. The biggest of the lot was acquiring superstar Mahendra Singh Dhoni, as their captain and iconic player. This has given them a great launchpad for on-field success. Dhoni led the CSK to wins in the IPL on three separate occasions (2010, 2011, and 2018), while being runners-up on five separate occasions – 2008, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2019). Unsurprisingly, the CSK boasts the highest success rate to date among all the franchises – 61.28% (100 wins out of 165).

The on-field success has spiralled – and probably helped – by the huge fan following across India that the Super Kings enjoy. Referred to as the “Yellow Army”, the team has an official fan club that goes by the name “Whistle Podu Army”. Chennai’s Chepauk Stadium that hosts their matches is already a fortress for the team, but the spread of their fan base has always been CSK’s 12th-man. The loyalty of their fans is legendary and has remained the backbone of the CSK – even in a dark period of suspension.

A Low Point for the Chennai Super Kings

Suspended for the seasons 2016 and 2017 for cricket betting transgressions by their owner, the CSK faced a grim period of existence. However, the loyalty of fans has driven the club during this phase. Almost all of the CSK fans have stopped watching the IPL – no kidding – as the 2016 and 2017 IPL seasons witnessed a dip in viewership in Chennai. It was only when the club was reinstated after the two-year suspension period in 2018 that the fans got back on the IPL bandwagon. Over the years, CSK and their fans have developed a very strong emotional connection, evolving into one of the biggest pillars of the club’s success. 

CSK are probably the only sporting franchise in the world of sports that saw an improved fan base even in their absence from the IPL. Consider this – when the Super Kings eventually returned to action after a wait of two years, over 10,000 fans swamped the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium (Chepauk) in Chennai for their training session. The club too goes to any lengths just to keep their fans content. When the team’s home matches were moved from Chennai to Pune in 2018, 1,000 die-hard fans were transported via an exclusive train – all expenses paid.

More Recently

The 2018 season saw Chennai Super Kings retain most of their core, but they plumped for players on the wrong side of 30. Brushed aside as the ‘Dad’s Army’ and way down in the odds market, the Super Kings were not primed to make the playoffs. Not only did Chennai Super Kings beat the odds to win the title, but it also gave a befitting reply to the overage jibes. On cue in the 2019 season, the CSK were back as bettor’s favourite to lift the title, although they could only manage to finish as runners-up.

CSK’s fairy tale goes beyond going for known faces and picking unknown faces out of nowhere. Manpreet Gony was the joint-fourth highest wicket-taker in 2008 that even catapulted him into the Indian national team. Even in the 2013 season when the CSK ended as eventual Champions, the unheralded Mohit Sharma (15 matches, 20 wickets) was Dhoni’s surprise pick. In the last couple of seasons, the way Dhoni and CSK backed players like Ambati Rayudu and Shane Watson is an example for all.

The pick of all picks is Ravichandran Ashwin. Long before he carved a niche as an all-variation off-spinner, Ashwin rose to prominence with the Chennai Super Kings. He won consecutive IPL titles in 2010 and 2011 picking up 13 and 20 wickets respectively. Even before international cricket got used to Ashwin’s carrom balls in the powerplay overs, CSK gave him a chance to shine. Needless to say, he wasn’t a darling of the betting sites to be among the wickets. 

All these further underlines the fact that Chennai Super Kings and MS Dhoni surprise the fans and odds alike. Having made the playoffs in every season they played CSK will be heavy favourites to repeat the dose this year as well. As the saying goes in Chennai, bet against Chennai Super Kings at your peril. As always, be cautious when going with a CSK pick this IPL 2020 season!

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