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Class is (not always) permanent: CSK and the end of sporting eras

0 1 month ago

The Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) unceremonious exit from IPL 2020, after making the playoffs in every single season so far, marks – symbolically, if not in reality – the end of the road for its current group of ageing players. It is not unusual; most successful sports teams or franchises deal with end-of-generation transitions. Some manage it well; most are hit hard, and the fall is as swift as it is surprising.

Which of these teams will CSK’s future follow?

The success

Since the foundation of the Premier League in 1992 until 2013, Manchester United were the undisputed kings of England, as 13 domestic titles in said span would attest to (And two Champions League trophies). Rivals came, rivals went, but through 21 years and three generations, they were it.

The fall

In 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson, their coach of 26 years, retired. And that was very much that. A team that won the title in 2012-13 finished seventh the next, with pretty much the same set of players, and it has been a tough climb back up to the perch since.

The now

There are signs of encouragement on the pitch, and much greater signs of malaise off it. This could go either way, really.

– Man United post-Ferguson signings: The good, the bad and the ugly

– Man United were supposed to be too big to fail: The inside story of how everything fell apart

– Sir Alex Ferguson timeline at Manchester United

– Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy looms over Old Trafford


The success

West Indies dominated cricket for nigh on a decade and a half. They did not lose a single Test series all through the 1980s – bar one, at the start of the decade – right up to 1995. They won 66% of their ODIs in this period. From Clive Lloyd to Viv Richards to Richie Richardson, the baton was passed and they just kept on steamrolling opponents.

The fall

Until one day, they stopped. After the ’96 World Cup, they just dropped off. And it was tragically steep — from opponents who inspired genuine, bone-numbing fear, they became the guys you would invite for a Test series if you wanted your players to hit their way back into form.

The now

They have some exceptionally talented cricketers still, and T20 leagues across the world run on Caribbean power. But the WI team are ranked No. 8 in tests, and No. 9 in ODIs and T20Is. That should tell you everything you need to know.

– The Invincibles: West Indies All-time XI

– Worst Indies: What’s going wrong in the Caribbean?


The success

Starting from when Arrigo Sacchi reimagined football in the late ’80s to Carlo Ancelotti’s all-round all-stars in the mid-2000s, AC Milan were simply awesome. For those 25 years, they had Paolo Maldini, and they won title after title — seven in the domestic league, five in Europe.

The fall

Symbiotically linked with the fall of Serie A through the late 2000s. They last won the league title in 2010-11; they have not even come close since. Off-field scandals rubbed shoulders with even more scandalous displays on the pitch and it’s been a spiral down ever since that last title.

The now

The future is the brightest it has been for a decade. Maldini’s back — as their technical director – and the team are playing some of the best football in Italy in 2020. For what it’s worth, they remain the only undefeated team this season across Europe’s big leagues (at the time of writing).

– AC Milan’s return to glory under threat from infighting off the pitch

– Milan has everything — passion, support and history — except the team it deserves

– Manchester United, AC Milan and the curse of continuity


The success

Six NBA Champions in eight years (including two three-peats), Michael Jordan taking basketball truly global, coach Phil Jackson inspiring Scottie Pippen and Denis Rodman to play the perfect second (and third) fiddles. The Chicago Bulls of the early to mid-90’s was everything a sports team aspired to be.

The fall

In 1998, Jordan left, Jackson left, Pippen left and success went with them. Apart from a brief mini-resurgence led almost single-handedly by Derrick Rose, they have been invisible ever since. Their best result post ’98? A lone Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 2011.

The now

As bleak as it was the day Michael Jordan left the building. They finished 11th in the Eastern Conference last season, 13th the season before, and 13th the year before that. For those not in the know, that’s out of 15.

– ‘The Last Dance’: The untold story of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls

– How Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls built their last title team

– Michael Jordan has not left the building


The success

Arsene Wenger came into Arsenal out of the blue, from Japan, and won over England. In his first seven seasons, he won three titles. The last of those, in 2003-04, Arsenal won without losing a single match. Invincible. As good as a team can ever get.

The fall

And then suddenly, they became all too vincible. Arsene Wenger remained, but Patrick Vieira left, and soon so did Thierry Henry. A defence that was once the best in the land became a roving circus comedy act. The fall has been steep, deep, and dark.

The now

Again, there are signs of encouragement on the pitch, and much greater signs of malaise off it. This could go either way, really.

– Arsenal were “invincible” in 2003-04 Premier League. What the hell has happened since?

– Wenger talks Ferguson, Ozil, Cole in new autobiography but no mention of Mourinho


The success

Hello again, Mr. Jackson. Under arguably the greatest coach basketball has seen, the Lakers — led on court first by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and then just Kobe himself — won five titles in 10 years.

The fall

They made only two playoffs in the 10 years after Jackson left and as Kobe retired, the Lakers simply stopped winning. Until…

The now

…they were crowned NBA Champions again last month. They got in LeBron James, and then Anthony Davis and absolutely smashed their way past opponent after opponent. If last season was any indication, the Lakers are back.

– Inside the Lakers’ Kobe-Shaq dynasty: fistfights, battle lines and Show(boat) time

– How Phil Jackson is influencing today’s NBA coaches


The success

From 2000 to 2004, Ferrari ruled Formula One. They had, in Michael Schumacher, a genius who transcended the sport, and in Ross Brawn, one of the great tactical minds of F1. Between 2000-2004, Ferrari swept the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships. Five years, five wins. At times, it felt like they had won the race before qualifying even started, such was their aura

The fall

Schumacher left in 2005, Brawn in 2006 and although Ferrari did win two Constructors’ Championships (and one Drivers’ Championship with Kimi Raikkonen) in the two years after, they were never the same again. They haven’t really come close to challenging for the title this past decade.

The now

Abysmal. The future has rarely looked darker. This season, they are sixth in the Constructor’s Championship, and slipping, already a whopping 342 points behind leaders Mercedes.

– Michael Schumacher’s magic and the hope that now comes with it

– Ferrari hits a new low in humbling 2020 season

– Ferrari has gone through the five stages of grief in 12 months


The success

Three World Cups in three tell its own tale. Between 1999 and 2007, Australia were unbeatable in ODIs. And they were even greater in Tests for an even longer period. They did it across two distinct generations — if the first was about Steve Waugh and his primal arrogance, the second was about Ricky Ponting and just being better than everyone else at every facet of the game.

The fall

Not so much a fall as a step down. They have won a World Cup (2015) and destroyed England many times over in the Ashes since the halcyon days of ’07, so it could have been worse.

The now

They are, as ever, a formidable opponent, ranked No. 1 in Tests and T20Is, and No. 4 in ODIs, but that aura is gone. Teams no longer look at the teamsheet and cave in.

– A particularly Australian mongrel


The success

Since forever. They are the winning-est team in sports history. They have played 591 Tests since 1903, and have won 457 of them, at an astonishing win rate of 77.33%. Quite frankly, it’s ridiculous.

The fall

Fall? What fall? Generations come, generations go, and the All Blacks keep on winning. What other sports team could honestly say that after fielding a player like Jonah Lomu, their next team was even more successful, and had just as scary an aura? Except at World Cups, the All Blacks, by All Blacks standards, fall short way too frequently. They start as favourites every single time (obviously!), but have only managed to win three out of nine WCs held since 1987.

The now

Over the last decade, the All Blacks win rate has been 88%. Over the last five, 86%. Last week, they smashed Australia 27-7 in the Bledisloe Cup. They’re doing alright. They just need to keep doing it at the big stage every four years.

– Understanding the All Blacks’ supreme success

– The 110-year-old book that made the All Blacks — and warned modern rugby

– Rugby 101: Wormholes, time travel, and magic waves


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