When Chennai Super Kings returned to the IPL in 2018, MS Dhoni was visibly emotional. The Whistle Podu anthem and the Yellow Army were silent for two years after the team was banned in 2016 and 2017 for the spot-fixing scandal in 2013. When a crowd of close to 15000 turn up just for a Chennai Super Kings practice, it is testament to the love the fans have towards the franchise. When you see MS Dhoni having fun, laughing about and just enjoying the game, one realises the deep-rooted passion and love that Chennai Super Kings generate among the fans. Chennai Super Kings are the heart and soul of the IPL. Dhoni is the undisputed Thala (meaning head of a group in Tamil) and the definition of fans is redefined when it comes to Chennai Super Kings.
Having won in 2018, Chennai Super Kings head into this edition high on confidence and with a core which has not been disturbed at all. In the 2018 auction, the team had only two players to pick from and they chose Mohit Sharma. The Haryana pacer, who had his best years under Dhoni for CSK, is back and he will be looking to get back to his best. Shane Watson, who smashed a century in the 2018 final and who was the Man of the Series in the Pakistan Super League, will be the key at the top. With Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo and MS Dhoni in the line-up, the ‘golden oldies’ can give the youngsters a run for their money.
If the batting is filled with older players, the bowling is a mixture of youth and experience. Lungi Ngidi and Mitchell Santner are some of the youngsters while Imran Tahir will be the key in the spin department. In 2018, the team came together brilliantly under Dhoni and fueled by the passion of the Chepauk crowd, Dhoni would be hoping to keep his proud record of having qualified for the knock-outs every single time intact. They would also be hoping to play all their home games in Chepauk, with the 2018 season curtailed due to the Kaveri protests.
Chennai Super Kings squad
MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Ravindra Jadeja, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Murali Vijay, Harbhajan Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Mohit Sharma, David Willey, Mitchell Santner, Lungi Ngidi, Sam Billings, N Jagadeesan, Dhruv Shorey, KM Asif, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Ruturaj Gaekwad
Chennai Super Kings support staff
Head coach: Stephen Fleming
Bowling coach: Lakshmipathy Balaji
Batting coach: Michael Hussey
Bowling consultant: Eric Simons
Physiotherapist: Tommy Simsek
Trainer: Gregory King
Team doctor: Madhu
Performance Analyst: Lakshmi Narayanan
Logistics Manager: Sanjay Natarajan
Indian players to watch out for
Ambati Rayudu: He was the designated No.4 for the Indian cricket team in the series against Australia (away and home) and against New Zealand. However, a poor ODI series at home has once again opened up the No.4 spot. A brilliant IPL could cement Rayudu’s slot for the ICC Cricket World 2019.
Suresh Raina: He has not been part of the Indian cricket team for over seven months now. After his last series in England, Raina has struggled for form. However, he is a proven match-winner and in ICC events, his experience will come in hand. Before his loss of form, Raina was the key in the middle order during Dhoni’s captaincy tenure and a good IPL performance could give him a chance.
International players to watch out for
Imran Tahir: He has announced that the 2019 World Cup will be his last international assignment. Approaching 40, the South African legspinner still has plenty of energy and will be the key in building pressure during the middle overs.
David Willey: In addition to being a bowler who operates well in the powerplay period, the left-armer is a useful batsman who can contribute in the lower order. England will be monitoring how he progresses in this IPL and his experience on flat decks could prove vital for the hosts’ chances.
2014: 2nd qualifier