IPL: Meet the teams – Can Chennai Super Kings draw level with Mumbai Indians?

Think Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and you will think of consistency. The yellow brigade is the most consistent team in the Indian Premier League, reaching the play-off stage in every season they have been a part of. The MS Dhoni-led team in fact have reached the summit clash a record 8 times in 10 seasons. They are three time IPL champions, second only to the Mumbai Indians (4).
This season too, CSK go in as one of the big favourites to win the title. Over the last 12 editions of the tournament, the Super Kings have been runners-up on as many as five occasions.
Apart from the skipper, MS Dhoni, the CSK batting roster boasts of other experienced batsmen like South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, Australia’s Shane Watson and India’s Ambati Rayudu and Murali Vijay.
The CSK pace line-up will be led by international pacers like South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi, West Indies’ Dwayne Bravo and Australia’s Josh Hazlewood, backed by India’s Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur. But what really makes them a lethal attack is their experienced spin department, which includes India’s Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla, South Africa’s Imran Tahir and New Zealand’s Mitchell Santner.

Leadership & experience: The Dhoni-led CSK are probably the most experienced side in the league. Much has been said and written about Dhoni’s captaincy, but one thing that remains consistent is that his team always fights for the title every season. Dhoni has taken CSK to eight finals in 10 seasons and has won the title three times. Most of his teammates are proven match-winners, both at the league stage and in big playoff and finals games. You can count on them to fight hard for their fourth title in the UAE this time.
Quality spinners: This has been one of CSK’s big strengths over the years. Though they will not have the services of the veteran Harbhajan Singh this season, they have signed Piyush Chawla. The likes of Jadeja, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma and Mitchell Santner give Dhoni multiple spinning options to pick from on the slow UAE pitches.
Conditions in the UAE will suit the team: CSK have traditionally done very well on the turning tracks of the Chepauk and steadily built their spin arsenal because of the nature of the tracks there. In the UAE they will find similar conditions. Though the nature of pitches are somewhat different in all three venues (Abu Dhabi, Sharjah & Dubai), the whole host of world class spinners they have in their arsenal will be itching to take full advantage of the slow pitches, which are expected to provide turn.

(Pic courtesy: Chennai Super Kings Twitter handle)
Match winning all-rounders: The squad is full of all-rounders and most of their front-line batsmen and front-line bowlers can chip in handsomely in the other department of the game. The likes of Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Ravindra Jadeja, Mitchell Santner and Kedar Jadhav provide a lot of balance to the team. They now also have the services of young England all-rounder Sam Curran, who is expected to bring a lot to the table with his left arm bowling and power hitting.
Consistency: As mentioned before, CSK are the most consistent team in the league. Reaching the playoffs is a norm for them and one can expect the same this season too. Since returning from their two-year suspension – 2016 & 2017 editions, CSK have won one title and finished runners-up to MI last year. That showed that they haven’t lost their magic at all. Out of a total of 165 matches that they have played so far, CSK have won 100.
Another thing that CSK has done well over the years in terms of consistency is retain certain core players and support staff which leads to better understanding and adds fluidity to their overall campaign. While Dhoni has been their rock as captain and key player, Stephen Fleming has been the Head coach since the 2009 edition, after having played the inaugural edition in 2008 as a player for the Super Kings.

Lack of competitive match practice: Dubbed ‘Dad’s Army’, CSK have multiple players who haven’t played competitive cricket in a while. While Dhoni hasn’t played any cricket since India’s World Cup semi-final loss vs New Zealand last year, the likes of Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu also haven’t played competitive cricket in a while.
Top order: With No Raina at number 3, the top order consisting of ‘older’ players like Watson, Vijay and Rayudu will have to come good. Faf du Plessis might have a big role to play this season in the middle order. Expect Dhoni to push himself up the order as well.

(Pic courtesy: Chennai Super Kings Twitter handle)
The pull-outs: Two of their senior-most players – Suresh Raina & Harbhajan Singh – decided to pull out of the tournament due to personal reasons. Raina’s absence will have a bigger impact on team strategy etc. Raina came back to India after travelling to the UAE with the team, while Harbhajan took time before his announcement and stayed back home. Raina has been part of CSK from the beginning and is the all-time highest run-getter for them, second overall behind Virat Kohli in the all-time IPL run scoring charts. And Harbhajan has won the IPL four times, three with MI and one with CSK, so his experience will be missed, even though chances are he wouldn’t have figured prominently as such in the playing XI.
The Covid positive cases: They have been in the news in the build-up to the tournament thanks to 13 members, including two players, of their contingent in the UAE testing positive for Covid-19, resulting in them being the last team to start practice. This might or might not have an impact on their overall campaign.
CSK, who were runners-up last season, losing to the Mumbai Indians in the final begin their campaign this time with a clash against Mumbai on September 19, in what is also the season opener.
Will the 2020 edition see them draw level with Mumbai Indians for most titles won?

CSK Full Squad: MS Dhoni (c), Ravindra Jadeja, M Vijay, Josh Hazlewood, Kedar Jadhav, Karn Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Ambati Rayudu, Imran Tahir, Deepak Chahar, Faf du Plessis, Shardul Thakur, Mitchell Santner, Dwayne Bravo, Lungi Ngidi, Sam Curran, Monu Kumar, Shane Watson, Sai Kishore, Narayan Jagadeesan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, KM Asif

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