The most consistent team of the Indian Premier League and definitely one of the crowd favorites, the Chennai Super Kings, are all set to return to the blockbuster league after facing a suspension for 2 years which raised a lot of eyebrows.
Core of the Squad
The reason why Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings have been so successful over the years in the league is that they have the core of the team intact year after year. The teams simply make minor changes around their main players in the auction and they are good to go. The likes of Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Faf Du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo are well aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses and their experience of playing together at the highest level will definitely come in handy for the young stars in the team.
CSK have a pleothra of batting talents and that could help them fire into the latter stages of the tournament. Chennai have got as many as eight batsmen in their ranks who have scored at least 1000 runs in the league and that speaks in itself what kind of batting prowess they possess. Raina (4540), Dhoni (3560), Watson (2622), Vijay (2511), Rayudu (2416) all have score buckeload of runs in the competition and they also bring along with tons of experience that will give the likes of Kedar Jadhav and Sam Billings ample time to bed in show what they can do in the shortest format of the game.
Over the years, spinners have caused problems a plenty for the batsmen in IPL as the tweakers are a bit hard to hit on slow Indian wickets as compared to the pacers and this is that department in which CSK are filled up to the brim. They have an off-spinner in Harbhajan Singh, who is the third highest-wicket taker in the history of the league; they have successful leg-spinners like Karn Sharma and Imran Tahir also in their ranks and not to forget all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who remains one of the best as far a bowling is concerned. They have more than sufficient artillery to keep experimenting and confusing the opposition with the sheer quantity and quality of spinners that they have in their side.
While Chennai’s strength lies in the number of experienced stars, their weakness lies with the number of inexperienced stars that they bought in the auction — this is the kind of paradox that CSK find themselves stuck in. Out of 24 players that they have on their roster, CSK have nine players who haven’t played a single game in the IPL prior to this season. Also, 11 players in their squad are above 30 in a format which is known to aid the young guns (at least on the field). The onus will be on Dhoni to bridge the gap between the youngsters and seniors and get them to perform at their optimum levels.
Lack of Pace
While on one hand, CSK have plenty of options in the spin department, but on the other, they lack serious firepower as far as pace bowling is concerned. The likes of Lungi Ngidi and Mark Wood have been good on the international stage, however, both remain unknown quantities in the league as they are yet to take their maiden bow. Only Shardul Thakur and Dwayne Bravo have considerable experience of playing in the IPL but they just can’t do it alone against the best batsmen in the world that CSK will cross path against, week in and week out.
After 10 trophy-laden seasons with Mumbai Indians, Harbhajan Singh will be eager to show the defending champions what they are missing kind of a player they opted to let go. Bhajji has been one of the most successful bowlers in the history of the league and in terms of wickets, he sits pretty at the number three spot in the all-time list. In 136 matches, the spinner has scalped 127 wickets and he is only behind former teammate Lasith Malinga (154) and Amit Mishra (134) in the list, therefore his wicket-taking ability certainly makes him CSK’s X-factor player.
Also, his economy rate of under seven is one of the best in the competition. Not just that, the India spinner is more than capable of bludgeoning the ball out of the park as well and he also has a fifty to his name in league. Great with the ball and handy with the bat, just the kind of player a captain wants to have in the side to balance the playing XI.
MS Dhoni (C), Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Faf du Plessis, Harbhajan Singh, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma, Shardul Thakur, N Jagadeesan, Santner, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Kanishk Seth, Ngidi, Dhruv Shorey, M Vijay, Billings, Mark Wood, Kshitiz Sharma, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi
If Dhoni manages to get the young stars to gel with the experienced ones and the senior batsmen fire on all cylinders, expect CSK to once again finish in the top-half of the league. But as far as winning the title is concerned, on paper, they aren’t as balanced as they were known to be previously.