IPL 2024: Why CSK is the right place for youngsters despite limited playing time?

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One of the founding principles of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) is to prioritize experience over youth in the playing eleven.

Although this design has brought success to CSK over the years, youngsters are always on the lookout for opportunities.

Yet, what makes the franchise a place for upcoming talent is the clarity, assurance and chance to grow given by the management.

“As we know, opportunities are very difficult to get. Whoever plays in the team will perform better for the team. And when it comes to progress, when you stay with a team like this for two consecutive years, you get to learn a lot of things,” fast bowler Rajvardhan Hungergekar said during a media interaction.

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The 21-year-old was picked up by the Super Kings for Rs 1.5 crore in the IPL 2022 auction after a stellar Under-19 World Cup earlier that year, where he took five wickets at an average of 28.8 in six innings. His additional lower-order hitting ability made him a smart investment.

The then 19-year-old, however, had not played much T20 cricket and CSK made sure he focused on developing his game.

“When I was first selected, I was not really that aware about the format. All I knew was to bowl fast and hit the length hard,” Hangergekar said.

“In the age group [circuit] You can dominate with those skills, but when the stage gets bigger, players get better tactically, even better mentally. That was a good break for me to wait and find out what the game was demanding from me and what my skills were. That first year was a good move from the team. They (CSK) didn’t put me in that situation immediately and see how I react. Instead, they wanted me to get better and then wait for my opportunity and they have shown faith in me by retaining me for the last two seasons,” explained Hangekar, who played two games in IPL 2023.

respecting the pecking order

In 2022, CSK recruited another fast bowler, left-armer Mukesh Chaudhary at a base price of Rs. 2 million. Luckily for him, a spot opened up in the playing eleven after Deepak Chahar got injured after the first game.

Even though he did a lot in his first few matches, CSK backed him to play all 13 matches and he finished the tournament with 16 wickets.

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“I never thought that I would ever play for CSK because CSK is for experienced players. I was new. But unfortunately Deepak got injured and I got the chance. The first few games didn’t go as planned, but gradually I gained confidence and got wickets,” Mukesh said during the conversation.

Later that year Mukesh suffered a broken rib and then a lower back injury, as a result of which he was unable to play cricket for the next 15 months. Despite the injury, CSK confirmed his place in the team.

Mukesh Chaudhary played 13 matches in IPL 2022 and finished the tournament with 16 wickets. Photo Courtesy: SPORTZPICS for IPL

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Mukesh Chaudhary played 13 matches in IPL 2022 and finished the tournament with 16 wickets. Photo Courtesy: SPORTZPICS for IPL

“Kasi (Viswanathan) sir told me not to worry about anything, just focus on my recovery. Whenever you become fit, you will play for CSK. So, that was really good motivation for me,” the 27-year-old said.

Although he has joined the team for the current season, Mukesh is waiting for his chance, knowing well that Chahar and Tushar Deshpande have moved up the order.

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“Everyone is performing well and last year Tushar and Deepak Bhai bowled really well. That’s why he should get a chance before me. It would be unfair to play in front of them. So, I am waiting for my chance. When you have proved yourself in the IPL, it is difficult and disappointing to sit out. I will play when the team needs me,” he said.

execution

In his two years with the franchise, Hangekar has gained knowledge of the T20 format and the art of death bowling. Much of this has come from sharing the dressing room with coaches like Dwayne Bravo and Eric Simmons and international bowlers like Chahar and Mathisha Pathirana.

“The most important thing is that all these good players know their strengths very well. These bowlers do not have 5-6 variations. They have three good variations and they are good at it. So, as a player, I really need to know what my strengths are,” Hangergecker reflected.

The youngster has gained clarity of thought and is sticking to his plans even when boundaries are being thrown at him.

“If a batsman hits a six to the bowler on a yorker, they immediately bowl the slower ball. Only then does it become easier for the batsman to pick out the bowler,” he explained.

And what better way to learn the execution than bowling to MS Dhoni in the nets. “Mahi bhai comes to bat and it is not easy to bowl to him. He does not worry about his wicket during practice. Therefore, it is even more difficult to implement. This is what makes you learn much faster than matches. So, it is a good experience.”

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