Tue, May 29, 2018 - Page 16 News List

‘Age is just a number’ for Dhoni’s IPL champions

AFP, MUMBAI, India

Shane Watson of the Chennai Super Kings plays a shot against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League final in Mumbai, India, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Mahendra Singh Dhoni said fitness was more important than youth as he celebrated winning the Indian Premier League at the age of 36 — and looked increasingly good for a fourth World Cup next year.

Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings drew criticism for picking aging warriors in the IPL auction, but the 30-somethings easily triumphed over Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday.

Shane Watson’s unbeaten 117, laden with eight sixes, and Dhoni’s tactical nous were more than a match for the Sunrisers’ spin wonderkid Rashid Khan, 19, and big-hitting captain Kane Williamson, 27.

Both Dhoni and Watson celebrate their 37th birthdays in the next six weeks, making them the oldest of nine 30-plus players in Chennai’s 24-man squad that swept aside the Sunrisers by eight wickets.

Watson said that he would now need a three-month rest to get over a hamstring injury that had made him question whether he would finish the seven-week IPL season.

Dhoni, India’s captain when they won the 2011 World Cup, insisted that “age is just a number” when it comes to winning big trophies.

“It is the fitness that really matters more than the age aspect,” he said. “What captains want is players who move well in the field. It doesn’t matter which year a player is born in, whether you are 19 or 20 — you have to be agile.”

Coming back from a two-year suspension for involvement in corruption, the Super Kings have now equaled the Mumbai Indians in winning the world’s wealthiest cricket tournament for a third time since it started in 2008.

Chennai coach Stephen Fleming said his team had answered critics who questioned whether they were too old.

“I think we dealt with a lot of adversity really calmly and that comes with leadership,” Fleming said. “I am proud of the way experienced players showed their value. In a way that’s validated our faith in them.”

Players like Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo, aged 33 and 34 respectively, proved their worth in crunch matches.

“We always said experience will get the better of youth,” Bravo said. “Shane Watson batted on one leg, struggling with a hamstring injury, but his experience got him through.”

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