MS Dhoni leads the Chennai Super Kings into the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League hoping that the previous version was just a matter of ‘unlucky for some’. IPL13 was the worst in the franchise’s 11 appearances as they failed to make the playoffs for the first time, were the first side out of contention for the playoffs before they ended in a lowly 7th place.
CSK would have been buoyed at the thought of returning to their home Chepauk Stadium with their array of spinners, but the decision to play all games on neutral venues has not given them the firmest of footings in their bid to bounce back.
The CSK squad, dubbed Dad’s Army, remain the oldest in the competition and their huge support base will be hoping that experience enables a resurgent display in 2021.
CSK IPL Record
- 2008 – 2nd
- 2009 – Semi Final
- 2010 – Winner
- 2011 – Winner
- 2012 – 2nd
- 2013 – 2nd
- 2014 – 3rd
- 2015 -2nd
- 2016 – Suspended
- 2017 – Suspended
- 2018 – Winner
- 2019 – 2nd
- 2020 – 7th
MS Dhoni (c), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Robin Uthappa, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Dwayne Bravo, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir, Sam Curran, Karn Sharma, N. Jagdeesan, KM Asif, Sai Kishore, Lungi Ngidi, Mitchell Santner, Josh Hazlewood, Moeen Ali, K Gowtham, Cheteshwar Pujara, M Harisankar Reddy, K Bhagath Varma, C Hari Nishaanth.
Russell Radhakrishnan (team manager), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Stephen Fleming (head coach), Michael Hussey (batting coach), Lakshmipathy Balaji (bowling coach)
AUCTION ACTIVITY 2021
INS: Krishnappa Gowtham (RS 9.25 crore), Moeen Ali (Rs 7 crore), Cheteshwar Pujara (Rs 50 lakh), Harishankar Reddy (Rs 20 lakh), Bhagath Varma (Rs 20 lakh), Hari Nushanth (Rs 20 lakh)
OUTS: Shane Watson (retired), Kedar Jadhav, Piyush Chawla, Murali Vijay, Harbhajan Singh, Monu Singh (all released).
CSK’s CHANCES in 2021
Chennai has the largest fan base in the IPL and they will have all been rocked by their side’s first failure to make the playoffs last season. In the previous season they had lost on the final ball to archrivals Mumbai Indians. They then had to watch Mumbai take back-to-back titles last season as their hero and skipper MS Dhoni has already boarded the plane home.
Owners, coaches, players and fans alike will be desperate to challenge for the trophy this season, but the neutral venue nature if the upcoming edition possibly hampers CSK more than any of the other sides. They play their first five games in Mumbai, a pitch that doesn’t suit their strengths, but then do have a run of matches in Delhi which is more akin in slow and spinning nature to their own Chepaul Stadium.
CSK had already retained their main core but they undoubtedly would not have purchased more spinners at the 2021 auction, although Moeen Ali’s experience of playing in conditions worldwide could see him play a bigger part than originally anticipated.
A huge asset to CSK will be their head coach Stephen Fleming’s vast experience and tactical acumen. Put him alongside Dhoni’s on-pitch nous and they have a leadership group that can plan a route to success. They will have learned a lot from last season’s struggles on the neutral tracks in the UAE and will undoubtedly have coping mechanisms in place.
They will rely heavily on experience and that is boosted by the return to action of Suresh Raina who adds quality to their top order batting.
MS DHONI is Mr CSK and, now 40, is widely regarded as the best Indian white ball skipper of all time and a genuine legend of the sport. His pride will have been dented last season and nobody will be more determined than him to get back to winning ways. At his peak, MSD was the best white ball finisher around and could win matches seemingly lost. But his powers are naturally diminishing and his 200 runs in 2020 at a strike rate of 116.27 were well below his best. As a leader his is invaluable however and if he, and the returning Suresh Raina, can recapture former glories it will be a major boost.
FAF DU PLESSIS was the leading batsman for CSK last season with 449 runs at 40.81 with a 140.75 strike rate. Now, without a South Africa central contract, the 36-year-old will be eager to add to his T20 franchise credentials so he can make the last few seasons of his career as lucrative and successful as possible.
RAVINDRA JADEJA is a huge component of CSK’s side, adding balance with his middle-order hitting and left-arm spin. The 32-year-old all-rounder missed India’s matches against England after sustaining a thumb injury on the preceding tour of Australia. If he is back fit and firing he is capable of having a big say in CSK’s season.
YOUNGSTER TO WATCH: RUTURAJ GAIKWAD
Gaikwad got his opportunity towards the end of the last IPL as CSK began to look to the future. The 24-year-old had failed in the three early games but after a recall once CSK’s race was run he impressed with his Rahane-esque batting that ultimately yielded 204 runs from six innings at an average of 51.00 and a highest score of 72 not out. The elegant opener has a tremendous opportunity to make a top order place his own.
WHERE WILL CSK FINISH?
Chennai Super Kings fans may be hoping for a return to former glories, but the 14th edition may be a year too soon. They may have to wait for a mega auction overhaul and a return to their home stadium before they can threaten the latter stages.
James Buttler is a cricket journalist, broadcaster and host of the Cricket Badger Podcast. You can tune into the IPL Daily editions here: https://podfollow.com/cricket-badger-podcast