Chennai Super Kings, one of the most successful franchises of the Indian Premier League (IPL), was originally not supposed to be a part of the tournament, revealed owner N. Srinivasan on Tuesday while speaking at Sportstar’s first-ever South Sports Conclave.
Srinivasan, who was the then treasurer of the BCCI, had to argue with senior members of the board to include a Chennai-based franchise in the IPL. “Chennai is one of the original five Test-playing centres of India. In the old days, before money, Chennai was always there because it was a Test centre. So why should a Test centre be left out of a new format of the game?” Srinivasan reasoned with the big-wigs of BCCI.
He had to take special permission from the then BCCI President, Sharad Pawar, to allow India Cements, of which he is the Managing Director, to bid for the Chennai franchise. “I have it in writing. In spite of this, I was on the front page of TOI for 13 days, even Mahatma Gandhi did not get that,” he said.
‘We own the franchise, not the player’
Speaking about the success and brand of CSK, Srinivasan explained that the franchise is very closely intertwined with the people of Chennai and that is what makes it so special. “We asked the people of Chennai to suggest the name of the franchise, and from that came Chennai Super Kings. The people of Chennai were involved at every stage. From the very beginning, there was an attachment between the city of Chennai and CSK,” he said.
Srinivasan narrated an incident which perfectly encapsulates how much the brand of CSK has transformed in the last 14 years. “Long ago, I was in England and went to a store. I tried asking about cricket, they did not know CSK, and I was disappointed. Last year I went again, everyone wanted my photograph as if I am the player. The transformation took place,” he said.
Srinivasan also explained the philosophy of CSK and what makes them different from other franchises. “We own the franchise, not the player,” he said, adding that the players are free to do what they want, and the franchise does not interfere even if they want to bring their family along with them.
‘Everybody in IPL wants to play for CSK’
Srinivasan further dwelled that the culture at CSK is such that they do not berate and question the players’ performance after every loss like other franchises do. “It is a fact that everybody in the T20 league called IPL says they prefer to play for CSK. Nothing is a secret, the players they talk to each other,” he said, adding that the team is extremely well-knit because of this approach of theirs.
“We have not changed the Coach, the Physio, the Trainer, nobody has been changed in 12-13 years. Whereas look at all other franchises, they have had different degrees of success, but they have changed people,” Srinivasan said. Explaining the reason behind CSK backing all its support staff, he added, “We chose competent people, so we believe in their competence”.
He also spoke about the two years when CSK was banned from the IPL and the swashbuckling return of the franchise that followed the two-year ban. “People became jealous of us and we were sandbagged. But our popularity grew. We increased our fan base substantially during those two years,” he said.
“We came back and won. We were called a team of oldies and this and that. Anil Kumble, who was on commentary, said this team is 6/10 on paper. On the field, they are 9/10 because under MS Dhoni, they transform. Sourav Ganguly also once said that the Delhi team is best on paper, but somehow when they play against Chennai, they lose all their nerve,” Srinivasan said, stressing the importance of MS Dhoni to the team.
T20 cricket is the future; Tests won’t be played for long
Discussing how CSK has helped transform cricket in the state of Tamil Nadu, Srinivasan spoke about why Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) was introduced and how it has taken cricket beyond Chennai and into the heartlands of the state.
“The two years we were not here, we introduced TNPL. 13-14 players from TNPL have gone on to play in the IPL or for India. The idea was that people were used to seeing limited-overs cricket, why not we start a tournament. It has now become very popular, the matches are getting close and the quality of cricket is good. Every other franchise sends their scout to see whom they can pick, the Indian team also keeps an eye. We have taken cricket to rural Tamil Nadu. We have not limited it to Chennai,” he explained.
Srinivasan also prophesied the end of cricket between countries and the further rise of franchise-based cricket. “In future, I believe contests between countries will dwindle down. Because I don’t see Test Cricket being played for a long time. Franchise-based cricket will be the order of the day, and there we have left a mark, we are one of the leaders, and we hope to continue,” he said while narrating the journey of CSK.