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IPL 2024: Why CSK is the place to be for youngsters despite limited game time


One of the founding principles of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) is its backing of experience over youth in the playing XI.

While this design has brought CSK success over the years, the youngsters keep itching for opportunities.

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

“As we know, it is very tough to get an opportunity. Anyone from the squad who plays is going to do better for the team. And when it comes to progress, when you’ve been with a team like this for two years straight, you get to learn a lot of things,” fast bowler Rajvardhan Hangargekar said during a media interaction.

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

The then 19-year-old though hadn’t played much T20 cricket and CSK made sure he focused on developing his game..

“When I got picked for the first time, I was really not that aware about the format. All I knew was bowling quick and hitting the lengths hard,” Hangargekar said.

“In the age-group [circuit] you can dominate with those skills, but when the stage gets bigger, the players are skillfully better, mentally, even better. That was a good break for me to wait and learn what the game is demanding from me, and what my skills are. That first year was a good move from the team. They (CSK) did not throw me immediately into that situation and see how I react. Instead, they wanted me to get better and then wait for my opportunity and they have shown that belief in me by retaining me for the last two seasons,” Hangargekar, who played two games in IPL 2023, explained.

Respecting the pecking order

In 2022, CSK recruited another pacer, left-armer Mukesh Choudhary, for a base price of Rs. 20 lakh. Fortunately for him, a place opened in the playing XI after Deepak Chahar got injured after the first game.

Even though he went for plenty in his first few games, CSK backed him to play all 13 matches and he finished the tournament with 16 wickets.

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“I never thought I’ll play for CSK anytime because CSK is like more for experienced players. I was new. But unfortunately, Deepak got injured and I got a chance. First few games didn’t go according to the plan but slowly I gained confidence and got wickets,” Mukesh said during the interaction.

Mukesh fractured his rib later that year, and then suffered a lower-back injury resulting in him missing the next 15 months of cricket. Despite the injury, CSK assured him of his place in the team.

Mukesh Choudhary played 13 matches and finished the tournament with 16 wickets in IPL 2022.

Mukesh Choudhary played 13 matches and finished the tournament with 16 wickets in IPL 2022.
| Photo Credit:
SPORTZPICS FOR IPL

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Mukesh Choudhary played 13 matches and finished the tournament with 16 wickets in IPL 2022.
| Photo Credit:
SPORTZPICS FOR IPL

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

Though he has joined the team for the ongoing season, Mukesh is waiting for his chance, knowing fully well that Chahar and Tushar Deshpande have gone up in the pecking order.

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“Everyone is performing well and last year Tushar and Deepak bhai bowled really well. So, they should get a chance before me. It will be unfair to play before them. So, I’m waiting for my chance. It’s difficult and frustrating when you sit out when you have proved yourself in the IPL. When the team needs me then I’ll be playing,” he said.

Execution

In his two years with the franchise, Hangargekar has gained knowledge of the T20 format and the art of death bowling. Most of it has come by sharing the dressing room with coaches such as Dwayne Bravo and Eric Simmons, and international bowlers such as Chahar and Matheesha Pathirana.

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

The youngster has also gained clarity of thought and sticks to his plans even if he is being hit for boundaries.

“If a batsman hits a bowler for a six on a yorker, they immediately go for a slower. That’s when it gets even easier for the batsman to pick the bowler,” he explained.

And what better way to learn execution than bowling to MS Dhoni in the nets. “Mahi bhai comes out to bat and it’s not easy to bowl to him. During practice, he’s not worried about his wicket. So, it’s even more difficult to execute. That’s the thing that makes you learn a lot faster than a match. So, it’s a good experience.”



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