A sure shot to the semis


CSK finished at the wrong end of a humdinger against Rajasthan Royals in the final. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men have the ingredients to make a serious bid for the title again.

Dhoni is an inspirational captain and leader; he remains calm during tense moments without any dip in his levels of intensity. He can get his men to rally around him or hold the lower order together with a blend of determination and flair.

The expensive acquisition of Andrew Flintoff — the formidable all-rounder was bought at a whopping $1.55 million — will make the side stronger. With his natural bounce from a high-arm action and sizzling yorkers, Flintoff will provide the bowling cutting edge.

He can impose himself on the game — in any format — with his speed, control and movement and is a telling striker of the ball. Flintoff, however, will not be available for the last and crucial stretch of the competition.

The expensive acquisition of Andrew Flintoff will make Mahendra Dhoni’s (top) side stronger.-AP

The expensive

While someone such as Flintoff is impossible to replace, the captain and coach of the team Stephen Fleming are not short of depth in the ranks.

Albie Morkel, among the biggest strikers of the ball in contemporary cricket and a bustling fast medium bowler, can be influential in this format. And he would comprehend the conditions in South Africa well.

If fully fit, Jacob Oram’s heavy-hitting and handy seam bowling will add to the side. Given its wealth of talent, CSK could face difficulties in selecting only four overseas players for a game.

Off-spinning wizard Muttiah Muralitharan will be hard to leave out of the eleven even for matches on seamer-friendly conditions. Home boy Makhaya Ntini can be effective with his cut and bounce even if his pace has dropped by a notch or two.

Matthew Hayden, an outstanding success last season, has since retired from international cricket. Yet, given his levels of motivation and commitment, it would be hard to bet against him at the top of the order.

Michael Hussey has pulled out of the league phase but CSK has plenty of meat in its batting. The left-handed Suresh Raina, who used IPL as a platform to resurrect his international career, is a busy batsman with a fine range of strokes. George Baily, an aggressive batsman from down under, is another option for the side. S. Badrinath contributed usefully last season.

Sri Lankan left-arm paceman Thilan Thushara provides variety to the attack. M.S. Gony, a success story in IPL-I, and Lakshmipathy Balaji could be effective in the South African conditions.

CSK appears a certainty for the last four stage. The final steps will test the side’s resolve.