for the past two seasons, the Chennai Super Kings have defied the belief that T20 is a young man’s game. They have relied on players in their mid-30s and made it to consecutive finals. But with 16 months gone since the last IPL, can their experienced players still deliver? Perhaps a good way to discern whether they have faded is to look at how they have fared in the meantime.
MS Dhoni, 39
After several months of mystery, Dhoni announced his international retirement in August this year. He had endured a difficult 2019 World Cup, in which he struggled to accelerate when the team needed him to, and was not named in any India squad in the months after. He also decided against playing any of India’s domestic tournaments in 2019-20. That means when he leads CSK onto the field on September 19, it will be his first professional cricket match in 437 days. Dhoni did attend Chennai’s training camp back in March, where he was met by hundreds of cheering fans, and has been in camp since August 16, ahead of this season.
Shane Watson, 39
Watson announced his retirement from the Big Bash League last year, so with his international career already ended in 2016, he is now only playing the Bangladesh Premier League, the Pakistan Super League and the IPL. He had a poor BPL in 2019, with just one score of more than 10 in seven innings for the Rangpur Rangers, who finished second from bottom. He fared better in the PSL earlier this year, scoring at 27.44 and a strike rate of 157.32 for the Quetta Gladiators. He hit two fifties, the second enough to earn him a Player of the Match, but his performances were not enough to take the Gladiators to the playoffs.
Faf du Plessis, 36
du Plessis has had a torrid time since the last IPL. He seemed to spend all his time apologising in press conferences as South Africa had a disastrous 2019 World Cup campaign and then suffered sound defeats in Test series in India and England. He eventually stepped down as captain of the national side in February. His own batting remained excellent in ODIs – he has averaged 64.50 in the 50-over format since the last IPL – but his Test form did dip. Things have gone much better for him in T20 franchise cricket: he led Paarl Rocks to the title in the 2019 Mzansi Super League and averaged 27.37 in the tournament.