Hyderabad: Three titles, five runners-up finishes, a record eight appearances in finals in 10 editions and making it to playoffs in every edition. These stats are enough to speak about the consistency of Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Despite being banned for two years (2016, 2017) for betting charges, led by an inspirational MS Dhoni, the IPL franchise from the south is one of the most successful teams in the league. With three titles, they are only second to Mumbai Indians who have four to their name. However, no team can come close to show such a standard of consistency.
The franchise was in the news for different reasons before the tournament’s kick-off. Former Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni announced his retirement from international cricket on August 15. A few hours later, Suresh Raina followed him calling time on his career as well. When they landed in UAE, 13 of their members, including two players, tested positive for coronavirus. The team management was under firing line for having a short camp in Chennai where the cases were on the rise.
A few days later, IPL veteran Raina left UAE in haste, giving rise to speculations of a rift within the team. A few sections of the media said that he was not happy with the hotel room allotted to him. CSK owner N Srininvasan’s ‘Prima Donna’ reference fanned the speculations about the rift. Later, he broke his silence saying his family was important to him during these tough times. Few days later, veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh too joined Raina and announced his withdrawal from the IPL.
However, once the tournament kicks off with CSK facing the Rohit Sharma-led defending champions Mumbai Indians on September 19, the focus will duly shift to the game, mainly on Dhoni. The last time Dhoni was seen in action was more than a year ago when Indian played New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup semifinals. Since then, he was not in action. Fans will be eager to see their idol executing his big sixes and helicopter shots more than ever.
Despite Raina’s absence, Super Kings have an experienced batting order with Hyderabad’s Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Muravi Vijay, Sam Billings and Dwayne Bravo. There was a chorus for Dhoni’s promotion to No.3 slot after Raina’s exit. Though the batting boasts of good fire power, the players like Watson, Rayudu do not have much of a match practice, which can hurt them in the initial stages. However, Dhoni’s ability to get best out of his players makes the side a dangerous side.
Dhoni, one of the best readers of the game in the current era, has good options at his disposal in the bowling department. Deepak Chahar, Mohit Sharma and Lungi Ngidi will bear the pace attack responsibilities along with Bravo. But is the depth in their spin department that can be a major asset on slow and turning wickets in UAE. With Ravindra Jadeja, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma and Mitchell Santner, the options are plenty. On the whole, Super Kings are once again strong title contenders.
Domestic: MS Dhoni (C), M Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Karn Sharma, Dhruv Shorey, N Jagadeesan, Shardul Thakur, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Mohit Sharma, Ruturaj Gaikwad
Foreign: Faf du Plessis, Sam Billings, Mitchell Santner, David Willey, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir
Key Players: MS Dhoni, Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, Imran Tahir
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