Back in the Indian Premier League after a two-year ban, Chennai Super Kings has managed to retain its ‘core team’ for the coming season, a proven formula for success for the franchise in the past. The consistent contribution of the ‘core team’ was one of the factors of the team’s success when it won the IPL title in 2010 and 2011 and also the Champions League T20 in 2010.
Ahead of the 11th edition of the league, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja were retained, and CSK acquired Murali Vijay, Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo.
Alongside these stalwarts, the likes of Shane Watson, Harbhajan Singh, Imran Tahir and Ambati Rayudu are proven performers in the cash-rich glitzy league and they offer a shot-in-the arm for the Dhoni-led franchise.
While Vijay, Raina, Faf and Dhoni would form the backbone of CSK’s batting, the team isn’t short on all-round strength too.
Watson would be in the scheme of things for Dhoni in CSK’s bowling impetus, while Bravo, who has donned vital roles in the past, is sure to make it to the playing XI for most of the matches. In Ravindra Jadeja and Kedar Jadhav, Dhoni has a combination of good fielders, handy middle/lower order batsmen and more importantly spinners, who can deliver the goods when needed.
Raina is the batsman CSK can look up to. In 161 matches, he has amassed 4,540 runs with a highest score of 100. In Watson, it has a prolific all-rounder who boasts of 2,622 runs and 86 wickets in 102 matches, while Harbhajan has picked up 127 wickets in 136 matches, with best bowling figures of 5/18. And more importantly, Harbhajan has been a part of three IPL winning teams (Mumbai Indians).
Probably an area of concern for CSK is the inexperience in its fast bowling line-up. Mark Wood, Lungi Ngidi, Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur, who are expected to spearhead the fast bowling line-up, are relatively inexperienced in the shortest format of the game.
Dhoni’s finishing abilities have also taken a hit in recent times. His strike rate in the 2017 edition was just 115, a stark contrast from 163 and 149 in the editions preceding that. This could be a telling factor in Chennai’s title ambitions.
Players to watch
Shane Watson would be one of the players to keep an eye on. He has been in tremendous form in the Pakistan Super League, scoring 319 runs in 10 matches at an average of 35.44 and has bagged 11 wickets with an economy of just over 7 runs an over.
The other player to watch would be South African Lungisani Ngidi, who impressed against India, in the recent series. He is inexperienced in Indian conditions and in the shortest format, but he has the ability to learn fast!