Twice India Premier League (IPL) champions in the last five years, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are the most consistent team in the world’s most lucrative T20 cricket competition. Since the league's inception, they are also one of the biggest money spinners alongside the IPL itself.
Marshalled by Indian icon Mahendra Singh Dhoni and backed by one of India's largest cement producers, star-studded CSK have reached the play-offs in 11 of their 13 seasons in the IPL and are four-time champions.
In this 16th edition, CSK are playing a full season on home turf for the first time in four years as they look to overturn a disappointing ninth-place finish in 2022.
Ben Stokes – England
Ben Stokes was purchased by CSK for $1.98 million (£1.58m) in December’s IPL auction. Three IPL teams had bid for England’s captain before CSK came in late to seal his services, as he became the third joint –highest price tag in the IPL. Billed as a potential long-term captain at CSK.
MS Dhoni – India
The highest-paid athlete in India a decade ago, the 41-year-old wicketkeeper still attracts millions of eyeballs for his batting prowess and showmanship (even if it is with short cameos these days).
Dhoni has led CSK to their four IPL triumphs while he blasted two successive sixes in CSK’s first home match at the start of the 2023 edition. It drew in 17 million viewers on IPL digital broadcaster Jio Cinema – the highest in IPL 2023 so far.
Behind the CSK brand
Businessman N. Srinivasan is considered one of the most powerful figures in Indian cricket history. A former International Cricket Council chairman and president of the BCCI, the governing body for cricket in India, Srinivasan has held sway as CSK’s owner since 2008.
The CSK franchise is owned by India Cements Limited (INDIACEM.NS) – the ninth largest listed cement company in India by revenue, with Srinivasan as managing director – through the Chennai Super Kings Cricket Limited holding company. It was formed in 2014 and registered as a non-governmental company.
The Super Kings are now expanding their portfolio outside of the IPL.
CSK have invested in Dallas-based franchise Texas Super Kings in the United States’ new Major League Cricket, the tournament slated to begin on 13 July. It is the second overseas purchase for CSK’s owners, who also back a SA20 team in the South Africa T20 league. New Zealander Stephen Fleming is coach of all three franchises.
Watch: Grand homecoming for CSK in 2018
Amid all the highs for CSK, there was a two-year low in 2015 when the franchise was suspended from the IPL for two seasons after official Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of Srinivasan, was suspended for life after a betting and spot-fixing scandal and bringing the IPL into disrepute. Rajasthan Royals were also suspended.
Several pivotal CSK players moved to other IPL teams during that time while the controversy and subsequent lawsuit saw the team's brand value dip to $67m (£54m) in 2015, according to the International Institute for Management Development.
The money spinners
The only IPL franchisee whose shares are on offer in the unlisted market, CSK’s stock has risen considerably over the years along with its fan and social engagement.
In January 2022, ahead of the last IPL edition, Super Kings became India’s first sports Unicorn – a privately held start-up company valued at over $1bn – a market cap in private equity more than its parent owner India Cements. This was heightened after its last IPL title win in Dubai and the emergence of new IPL franchisees.
According to Forbes India, CSK’s enterprise value (EV) is now around $960m (£769m), while capital market analysts believe that the Chennai-based team will see their revenue jump by 124.9% for this year’s IPL.
With overall TV rights for the IPL sold for a record $6.02bn (£5.13bn) for the next five years, CSK will also benefit from its own digital media rights. It is reported that CSK will reap around $620m for 2023-2027 from companies wanting to use Super Kings' content.
On the playing front, Dhoni is reportedly the highest-earning player in IPL history, with total earnings taken to INR 176 crore ($21.4m) after being retained by CSK for the 2023 season.
Did you know...
Dhoni, who now comes in at number eight for CSK, has produced some eye-catching, magical stats when at the crease in the 20th and final over of his IPL career. At the start of 2023, he had notched nearly 700 runs, blasting 55 sixes and 49 fours.
At IPL 2011, CSK won all their home games and became the first IPL franchise to do so.
Companies wanting a slice of CSK continued apace ahead of the 2023 season when Garuda Aerospace became the official drone partner for the 2023 season. Dhoni holds a stake in the company.
What they have said on CSK...
"Brand CSK will outgrow Brand India Cements. If you look at the history of franchise-based leagues in the US, it will outgrow everything. Passion for cricket is so much in India. The road between countries will see franchise-based leagues getting the precedence as we go along." N Srinivasan, CSK owner
“The CSK and Dhoni brand go hand-in-hand, having gone through rough patches after which they bounced back. There can be no CSK without Dhoni… his leadership and consistency have been the key.” Bhairav Shanth, of sports sponsorship outfit ITW Consulting