Chennai Super Kings' (CSK) 27-run win against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 final on Friday was a vindication for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's old brigade. And head coach Stephen Fleming was more than happy to talk about experience, the best teacher.
After the one-sided Dubal final, Fleming admitted to getting criticised for keeping an ageing squad. "There was criticism about the age of our squad but it's rewarding to finish the four-year cycle with the trophy," he said.
After the debacle of 2020, the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led CSK produced a stunning turnaround in the 14th season of the world's premier cricket league. They had failed to make the play-offs last year after finishing seventh in the eight-team tournament.
But the team retained the core group of players and also brought in experienced hands for the 2021 season. In fact, the team got a new, yet scornful moniker which they have not only owned but have also glorified. They are now the 'Dad's Army'.
Dhoni is 40. And he has the company of Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, Ambati Rayudu, Robin Uthappa, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina -- all on the wrong side of 30. And they were competing in the most demanding cricket league in the world, in a brutal format. But in the end, the experience trumps everything.
"Experience is important, guys who have been there and done it before add so much. We don't get too deep into analytics and numbers, we go with gut feel and developing relationships with players. It's old school but it works for us," Fleming added.
He also said all the four IPL titles are special to him but the current one holds greater significance as it was bagged by an ageing side, who were written off at the start of the tournament.
"It is very hard to rank them (the titles). It is also special because you work so hard and the result of a lot of hard work, so they (the titles) are all very special," Fleming said at the post-match press conference.
"I think, the one win in 2018, coming back, was very emotional but there is a lot of hard work in this one. I don't think a lot of people had any hopes from us to be able to maintain our competitiveness during this cycle. We were pretty much written off.
"So, there is little bit of satisfaction around that and a lot of pride in what the players have been able to achieve and maintain the standards over a number of months and that was a challenge for an ageing side. I am really proud about what they did and in the way they played," he added.
Fleming said the title was a recognition of the hardwork the ageing squad has put in and hinted that there will be a few changes in the team next year.
"There is emotion around, I think when you get to an end of a cycle, you are not going to get some players back, so there (was) some emotions around these last games. When you win it, it is celebration and also recognition of what players have put in," he said.
"Chennai always had a system or belief that you maintain players and keep them with you for a long period of time, you get the best out of them. There are some players that have been with us for a long time.
"It will be interesting to see over the next few months how it pans out but most teams are probably going to have a bit of change to them."
Meanwhile, skipper Dhoni provided a cryptic response to a question on his CSK future. With two new teams joining the IPL bandwagon for the next season, the existing squads will also see an overhaul.
"I've said it before, it depends on BCCI. With two new teams coming in... we have to decide what is good for CSK. It's not about me being there in top-three or four. It's about making a strong core to ensure the franchise doesn't suffer. The core group, we have to have a hard look to see who can contribute for the next 10 years," Dhoni said.
Even in the twilight years of his career, Dhoni will provide any team with the springboard it needs.