CSK Crowns a New King: What Does That Teach Us About Succession Planning

CSK Crowns a New King: What Does That Teach Us About Succession Planning | Human Resource Management | Emeritus

When Virat Kohli became a father for the second time, the meme that stuck with us most was the one in which an erstwhile Dhoni declared that he would retire after he played one season of the IPL with Akaay (Kohli’s newborn son)! We’re sure the CSK’s franchise won’t mind, nor will this cricket-crazy nation that worships Thala. There’s no denying it: Dhoni’s got game, and how. He has lifted the IPL trophy five times; jaw-dropping, isn’t it? It’s enough to lull fans and bosses into a sense of forever glory. Who needs to think about a Dhoni 2.0 when the original is smashing his way into assorted record books? However, anyone inclined to think practically knows better, of course. So, the next best course of action that the CSK-Dhoni combine has done is to implement a succession planning process.  

The full extent of the plan came to a head this March before the IPL 2024 season kicked off. CSK captain MS Dhoni announced that Ruturaj Gaekwad, a teammate since 2019, would be the new leader. That Dhoni, the leader with the Midas touch, thought about announcing a successor is a pretty strong recommendation for long-term succession planning. It is indeed a great idea. Before he hangs up his gloves for good, he will be able to groom his successor for the role. That would not only ease the transition, but it would also allow his teammates to see their peers in a leadership position, one that comes recommended by the great himself. As succession plans go, this is the right way to go about things. Enough to make businesses and organizations stop and take notice of the long-term strategy for themselves.

Playing for Keeps: What is Succession Planning?

Let’s take a quick crash course about what is succession planning. Essentially, identifying individuals for leadership roles in businesses is what it means. It is integral to HR management from the point of view of planning for the future of a business. 

Nurturing Leadership Requirements

The CSK succession planning example is a comprehensive, well-implemented strategy. For starters, even considering it seriously is a step more than most business houses take (“serious” being the key here). A recent Deloitte study showed that despite 72% of organizations having the broad framework of a plan, only 27% of those surveyed said it was effective. These are sobering statistics, but they don’t dilute the importance and necessity of a robust succession planning process. The major hurdle here is the mindset. 

As Monica Agarwal, Asia Pacific and India lead and CEO of succession and board services at Korn Ferry, states: “The biggest challenge with succession planning in India is we link it to an event – be it retirement or an upcoming planned exit of a senior professional unlike in the developed countries such as the US where it is an institutionalized process.” 

This is where the CSK approach differs. Back in December 2023, when coach Stephen Fleming was asked who would be next after Dhoni, he said that they had a succession plan in place for a CSK new captain for the past decade. This, as Agarwal mentions above, is the right way to go about the business of succession instead of a last-minute scramble to find the right candidate for very challenging roles. 

The Importance of Succession Planning

In the 2022 IPL season, CSK set the ball rolling with a Dhoni replacement when they got fellow teammate Ravindra Jadeja to slip into the captain’s role. Sir Jajeda christened by none other than Dhoni, seemed like the natural successor. But this succession plan failed with an uncharacteristic spate of losses. And Dhoni had to grab the reins again to stop the slide. However, this debacle did highlight something significant, which is that the upper management, coach, and captain were already thinking and experimenting with promising CSK captain candidates from the team ranks. They did this when Dhoni was still around as an active player to step in if needed, which is what happened. As this shows, succession planning needs to be a constant process of observing, managing talent, and engaging the workforce. Here are some necessary reasons for businesses to employ a comprehensive succession plan.

Identify, Manage, and Nourish Talent Within the Company 

Looking within the pool of professionals within an organization is a great motivation builder among incentivized staffers. Not only that, it allows the management to groom promising employees for leadership roles. Ruturaj Gaikwad was evidently already on the Chennai Super Kings management radar. He had acquitted himself well on the field at IPL 2023 when he scored a total of 590 runs in 16 appearances. If that wasn’t enough, he followed it up in August when he led a “second-string” Indian team to the gold medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games. Gaikwad was going places, and his captain knew it. 

An Incentive to Young Members to Up Their Game

On the flip side of that, a robust succession plan allows young employees with untapped leadership traits, a great work ethic, and an interest in challenging themselves to work toward a concrete goal. Unless the old guard makes way for new talent, the wheel of life will stop spinning. Gaikwad, apparently, was a serious contender as far back as the 2002–2023 season of the Vijay Hazare championships. When Maharashtra played Ranchi in a league match, it is believed Dhoni informed his CSK teammate that they were looking to him to fill the CSK captain role in a post-Dhoni era. In turn, Gaikwad himself used the tournament as a training ground for this role that he would take up.  

Charting Out a Comprehensive Succession Plan

For HR departments wondering what the succession planning playbook is, here are some easy-to-implement recommendations:

Transformational leadership
  • Have a strategy in place as early in the game as you can. As soon as new employees show potential or leadership qualities, keep a close eye on their growth. 
  • If they deliver on the promise consistently, they will be brought to the attention of upper management. This way, they, too, are aware of a possible future leader and can provide inputs to further cultivate their talent. 
  • Cast the web-wide and consider diversity in your leaders: more women, more individuals from under-represented groups. This is because talent is an equal-opportunity gift, as is the leadership potential.
  • In a digital-first world, how can data be far behind? Succession planning, no surprise, can also leverage data analytics to help identify talent and even identify skill gaps to plug. 
  • Mentoring programs are a great way to build on any latent leadership skills among the younger pool of employees. Gaikwad’s leadership qualities were evidently first noticed under CSK coach Stephen Fleming’s captaincy skills program, which he conducts every IPL season for young players.
  • An individual, one-on-one strategy is also advisable. This is particularly true if businesses are cultivating more than one promising successor. Or if they are building a group of potential leaders for different positions.  

Planning a Successful Strategy With Emeritus  

Most importantly, find a balance between a long-term succession planning process and handling any immediate talent requirement. As far as the CSK new captain journey goes, IPL 2024 started with a bang. Under his leadership, the team has won four out of its six games and is among the top three contenders on the leaderboard. Only time will tell how this CSK-Dhoni legacy will pan out. However, there is no doubt from this succession planning example of its efficacy in a smooth leadership handover. To know more about why you need this plan for businesses, head to the Emeritus platform.

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NOTE: This blog is an op-ed, and does not reflect the opinions or positions of Emeritus as a brand.

Write to us at content@emeritus.org

About the Author

Senior Content Writer, Emeritus Blog
Gauri has found that the upside of being a writer and a scissor-happy copy editor is a rather constant, even paranoid, eye on her own work—and a healthy aversion to complacency. As a professional content creator for over a decade, she has spent time writing (and editing) design, architecture, and lifestyle stories, as well as corporate content, brochures, ads, and websites, among other genres. Her stint with Emeritus has opened an exciting and challenging avenue of education to explore and proves what she already knows—you’re really never done learning.
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