Best finish: Four IPL titles (2010, 2011, 2018, 2021)
Last season: Ninth
Chennai Super Kings, led by the evergreen M. S. Dhoni, is one of the most consistent IPL franchises ever. It has missed out on a top-four finish just twice. With the IPL set to return to home-and-away format from 2023 first time in four years, CSK will return to the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, where it has enjoyed unprecedented success on spin-friendly pitches. There’s also a ‘small’ matter of the return of Thala Dhoni, who had said he hoped to finish his career at Chepauk. All in all, CSK will be greeted by a pulsating fanfare when it takes on the Lucknow Super Giants in its first home game this year on April 3.
Strengths: The return to Chepauk is good news for CSK and its fans. Super Kings’ squad is tailor-made for the conditions in Chepauk, with Ravindra Jadeja, Moeen Ali and Maheesh Theekshana primed to mount a trial by spin for the travellers. Then there’s Ben Stokes, signed for Rs. 16.25 crore. He is a big-hitting option who can float up and down the order, and can pitch in with two-three overs of pace.
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Weaknesses: Death bowling. Dwayne Bravo, who had been Dhoni’s go-to option for two of the last four overs, especially on the slow pitches at Chepauk, has announced his retirement and is now the team’s bowling coach. CSK could turn to Stokes, but he has bowled only 31 balls at the death in all T20s since the start of 2021 and has four wickets. He could also leave IPL early to prepare for the Ireland Test and the Ashes. CSK could rely on Sri Lankan off-spinner Theekshana but its death bowling options, as they stand, threaten to spring a leak, especially on better batting surfaces.
Dhoni (captain): Here is a man whose name is synonymous with the success, philosophy, and popularity of CSK. Dhoni has led the Super Kings since the first season of the tournament — save the two years when the franchise was banned. His finishing powers may have waned over the years, but his methods even today bring about an air of reassurance and poise at the crease. Expect ear-piercing chants of “Dhoni! Dhoni! Dhoni!” when he steps on the field next.
Best overseas player - Moeen Ali: Another English all-rounder who was crucial to CSK winning the IPL title in 2021 in the UAE. He was the third-highest run-scorer for Super Kings that year, smacking 357 runs in 15 innings at an average of 25.50 and strike rate of 137.30. He also chipped in with the ball; figures of 3 for 7 against Rajasthan Royals at the Wankhede Stadium in IPL 2021 being the highlight.
Best Indian player - Ravindra Jadeja: Jadeja has been with the franchise since 2012. Arguably one of the best all-format all-rounders, Jadeja had been out of action since August 2022 due to a knee injury but made a comeback in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia. He was the Player of the Match for an unbeaten 45 and figures of 2 for 46 in the first ODI against Australia at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. CSK would hope Jadeja hits a purple patch this season.
Best uncapped player - Mukesh Choudhary: The medium pacer was one of the standout performers for CSK in an otherwise disappointing 2022 season. He impressed with his wicket-taking ability in the PowerPlay, finishing as the joint-highest wicket-taker in that phase last season. He picked up 16 wickets in 13 games overall and got a glowing appraisal from Dhoni and head coach Stephen Fleming.