x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

IPL: Michael Hussey symbolises consistent Chennai Super Kings

The Super Kings are going for a third title in four years against the Mumbai Indians, writes Osman Samiuddin.

Michael Hussey, in action in 2011, has been a key part of the success of the Chennai Super Kings.
Michael Hussey, in action in 2011, has been a key part of the success of the Chennai Super Kings.

It is not easy to get a handle on the Indian Premier League (IPL), not as easy as it is for the many established leagues it strives to emulate. As the sixth season draws to a close tonight, the league's ephemerality has never been clearer.

A new team entered this season to replace an older one and before the season is over, a newish team pulled out its franchise. For the second time in three years. Arbitrary rules govern the buying and selling and transfer of players; arbitrary restrictions remain on the participation of some nationalities; equally arbitrary rules govern the travel of another nationality to one city.

The revelation, meanwhile, that three players have been arrested for spot-fixing, heaps upon the sense not only of ad hoc governance, but that the entire carousel is not so serious or sacred that it cannot be spiked occasionally (though, admittedly over the last decade by that logic, Tests and ODIs have also been treated as non-seriously).

All of which means that the presence in the final tonight of Chennai Super Kingsbrings a warm, reassuring familiarity to the league's fans and some coherence to the indifferent. This is now their fifth final in six seasons, fourth in a row and puts them on the verge of a third title. If a terrain as transient as the IPL can produce a dynasty, we might be witnessing it now.

If we ignore the cynics, forceful as their arguments of Chennai's dominance being the inevitable result of the ownership of N Srinivasan, the all powerful BCCI president, then some reasons are obvious. The core of the Super Kings squad remains precisely as it was in the first edition in 2008, which in a league where few teams have retained a sense of identity, is remarkable and crucial.

Eight of the squad from the first season are still around if you include Stephen Fleming, who played that season and has been coach since. Most of that number are the key names, around whom the team revolves: captain MS Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin, Michael Hussey, Suresh Raina, Albie Morkel.

They have been successful in their transactions. Each of Dwayne Bravo, Murali Vijay and especially Ravi Jadeja have been vital to recent successes. But as Fleming observed after their qualifier win over Mumbai on Tuesday, stability is vital.

"We have shown consistency and loyalty in team selections," he told reporters. "Moreover, the composition of our side and the kind of mix we have, the combination of selection policy, quality of players, their maturity and above all a good franchise, everything has been fantastic.

"We have been lucky to have had the same team for six years. We have been conservative in our approach and often been criticised for being boring. But in a tournament where results can be emotionally driven, we have had a solid base."

As much as they are a well-drilled team, this season has been remarkable for the enduring appeal of Hussey. Hussey retired abruptly from international cricket this year, amid all kinds of chatter that he was not particularly happy within the side.

But he has batted here with all the reassurance and smarts that made him one of the finest cross-format batsmen in recent years. At one point earlier in the season, he had played out the second-most number of maidens by any batsman in the league, with three (even more surprising was that Chris Gayle was ahead of him, with four at that stage).

Yet so complete a batsman remains Hussey and, crucially, so unperturbed by most kinds of game pressure, that he is the league's leading scorer, with a strike rate of just under 130 (averaging over 56). He became only the third batsman ever to make over 700 runs in a season, with six fifties. Others, like Gayle, have been sprinting, but Hussey is going to be winning this race.

They may not win of course, even if you take into account Raina's nose for big IPL games, or Dhoni's finishing, or Jadeja's golden touch. That is the nature of the format after all. But even defeat will not ultimately diminish their status.


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