Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) run in the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) can be summed up by the adage: “All good things must come to an end.” The franchise, which had never failed to qualify for the playoffs before, had a miserable outing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), finishing seventh.
The three-time IPL champion had to battle various issues, from key players such as Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh opting out, to players contracting Covid-19 (Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad) and an ageing squad without enough batting firepower. The fact that the pitches in the UAE did not offer the kind of assistance CSK is used to in Chennai for its spin-based bowling lineup did not help matters either.
With the tournament returning to India, CSK will feel a bit more confident even though it can’t play in Chennai.
CSK plays five matches in Mumbai, four in Delhi, three in Bengaluru and two in Kolkata. While the batting-friendly pitches in Mumbai and Bengaluru should play to CSK’s strengths, how the team adapts to the conditions in Delhi and Kolkata will be interesting.
After a disappointing 2020 season, the team actively tried to shore up its lineup with important signings such as Robin Uthappa (traded from Rajasthan Royals), who could potentially open the innings with Faf du Plessis, and all-rounders Krishnappa Gowtham and Moeen Ali in the auction.
CSK will need Ravindra Jadeja, who is returning from injury, to be at the top of his game. – Sportzpics / BCCI
An important reason for the struggle last year was the absence of Raina, the fulcrum of CSK’s batting lineup. If the left-handed batsman can bring that solidity back at No. 3, the batting lineup will look more potent.
In Gowtham, the team has a reliable off-spinner who can open the bowling on helpful pitches and a handy bat lower down the order.
Last year, the emergence of players like Sam Curran and Gaikwad was the silver lining for the team, and it would hope the youngsters can take another step this year.
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Moeen Ali might not have played a lot for England in the T20s in India, but he could be the dark horse for CSK this year. In the two editions of the IPL played in India, he has been relatively economical with his off-spin and can also be a handy floater with the bat, including as an opener.
CSK will also need Ravindra Jadeja, who is returning from injury, to be at the top of his game.
The bowling lineup looks largely the same with pacers Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur in addition to Lungi Ngidi. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir can be expected to play a bigger role this year with more helpful pitches for spinners.
However, the major issue for the team will be how sharp players like skipper M. S. Dhoni, Raina, Ambati Rayudu and Uthappa can be.
While the team might not have the best Twenty20 team on paper, it has enough resources in each position to give a stern fight. It is a team that has often extracted the best from the players, which is something that cannot be overlooked.
Ideal Playing XI
Faf du Plessis, Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, M. S. Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Sam Curran, Moeen Ali, Imran Tahir, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar.