Chennai Super Kings start every IPL tournament as favourites right from the time the IPL first started in 2008, when they were the losing finalists. However, after finishing as champions in 2010 and 2011 and having played 5 finals in total in a tournament that is now into its 8th edition; there is no doubt that CSK have been the dominant force in the pre-eminent T20 league in the world.
M. S Dhoni, India’s most successful captain, has moulded this team into one of the most formidable outfits in the IPL and over the years there have been times they have looked invincible. Last year they went out to the finalists Kings XI Punjab in their qualifier game but not before having a real crack at the target of 227 and hence that air of danger is always there whenever CSK takes on an opponent. Let’s have a look at how they are going to be like in 2015.
MS Dhoni, Eklavya Dwivedi, Kyle Abbott, Baba Aparijith, Ravichandran Ashwin, Samuel Badree, Ankush Bains, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Matt Henry, Michael Hussey, Ravindra Jadeja, Brendan McCullum, Mithun Manhas, Ronit More, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Ishwar Pandey, Irfan Pathan, Pratyush Singh, Suresh Raina, Mohit Sharma, Rahul Sharma, Dwayne Smith, Andrew Tye.
CSK have been the most relentlessly consistent team in the IPL, packed with internationals and have almost all bases covered which make them favourites ahead of almost every game they play in the IPL or for that matter in the UCL T20. In MS Dhoni, they have perhaps the greatest limited overs captain of the modern era and over the course of the season he has built up a team that has the capability of winning from tough position irrespective of opposition or venue.
If you look through the side, you will see breathtaking firepower at the top of the order with 3 of the biggest power hitters in the world – Dwayne Smith, Brendan McCullum and Suresh Raina– coming in to bat at the top 3 positions and even if one of them plays a long innings, they are going to get an imposing score. However, even if they do fail, CSK can fall back on the fluent stroke play of South African star Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja and last but not the least MS Dhoni who can finish the innings with a flourish. What is even more frightening is that they have a player like Michael Hussey in reserves, who can come in to the side if any one of the regulars are unavailable and keep the batting strength at the same explosive level.
What makes this team tick is the presence of so many Indian internationals in the side. There are hardly anyone whom you could call a ‘rookie’ and even someone like Ishwar Pandey has enough IPL experience to hold his own against the big boys. Barring Pandey, the bowling attack is led by Ashish Nehra, Mohit Sharma, who had a wonderful World Cup and Ravi Aswan; while Bravo and Jadeja can provide able support. The presence of so many hard-headed experienced cricketers is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why CSK continue to win the big moments in most games and in close games they are almost always the team that ends up as the winner.
CSK is a team that does not have any glaring weaknesses or else they would not have been as successful as they have been over the years but then again no team can be perfect even though they have the luxury of simply buying the player they need. Power hitting, middle order anchor, lower order hitting; you name it and they have it, however something that has continued to plague them at various times across the different seasons of the IPL is the inability to stem the flow of runs if their bowlers are under attack and that stems from the absence of a really quick fast bowler who can trouble batsmen at the beginning and the back-end of the innings.
Such a bowler can break the back of a batting line up early on or stem the flow of runs in the slog overs and better still bowl an over in the middle overs and control the run flow with a tight over or a wicket. However, if CSK are able to get such a bowler then they would be the closest to the perfect T20 team but that would spoil the fun a bit.
Key Players: –
Although Dwayne Smith has been one of the unsung stars of the IPL for the past 3 seasons or so, it is his opening partner Brendan McCullum who is going to be the engine of the fast start at the top of the innings and coming back from a World Cup in which he held a strike rate of 188 you would expect him to plunder some quick runs in the IPL.
Suresh Raina is a player who has been one of the most consistent players in the IPL over the years and has the uncanny knack of rising to the biggest occasions, which means that his form could be the key when it comes to winning the big games. However, Faf du Plessis who plays the anchor role with a quite brilliance might end up being more important than all of them since he does not only have the technique of handling stormy fast bowling or quality spin but can also unleash a vast repertoire of strokes if required. He is quite simply the best batsman in the CSK line up and would play a major role in their campaign.
Ashwin and Jadeja however are the ones who would be vital to their bowling line up since those two bowl well in tandem and are responsible for keeping runs in check in the middle overs. Ashwin however can open the innings or bowl at the death if need be.
Quite simply it has to be MS Dhoni. His captaincy is worth its weight in gold and his ability to hit the best bowlers in the world for sixes in the rear end of the innings will also be one of the factors if CSK are to go far in the tournament. Usually gets into top gear in the business end of the tournament.
By: Soham Samaddar