IPL 2021 team watch: Chennai Super Kings aim to reclaim their throne
Owners: Chennai Super Kings Cricket Ltd (subsidiary of India Cements)
Captain: M.S. Dhoni
Star player: Faf du Plessis
Head coach: Stephen Fleming
IPL titles: 3 (2010, 2011, 2018)
Home ground: MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
Dubai: The whistling has resumed. The Whistle Podu (blow the whistle, in Tamil) fan brigade has been on mute after the Chennai Super Kings crashed out of the Indian Premier League last year. That was a rare fall. Don’t write them off as IPL returns to its roots in India.
Chennai should start as one of the favourites in Season 14. Why? They are one of the marquee teams. A team that have won three titles and have finished below fourth place only once. Don’t discount the influential leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
There’s more. Chennai are smarting from the flop-show last season. An embarrassing stumble for a team that have made the knockout stages of every IPL they played. The setback in the UAE would have hurt captain Dhoni, owner N. Srinivasan and the Whistle Podu Army.
IPL 14 offers a chance for Chennai to erase the bitter memories in the UAE. So don’t be surprised if they come out all guns blazing.
They are still a ‘Dad’s Army’, so how do they plan to turn the clock back? Shane Watson has retired and Harbajan Singh has moved to the Kolkata Knight Riders. Josh Hazlewood is tired of the bio bubble and will give IPL a miss. But they will take heart from the return of Suresh Raina, the second-highest run-scorer in IPL behind Virat Kohli of Royal Challengers Bangalore. Dwayne Bravo is still there. So they can count on his late innings blitz and the blend of slower balls at the death. And they have the steadying presence of veteran Ambati Rayudu.
It should be a surprise if youngsters Ruturaj Gaikwad and N. Jagatheesan get more significant roles. But Chennai tend to opt for experience over talent. That has worked well for them. When a team have won three titles in 11 attempts, you can’t argue with their philosophy. Yet, the chances of Gaikwad opening with Faf du Plessis are quite high, although veteran Robin Uthappa is very much in the frame.
Chennai would have watched Sam Curran’s breathtaking knock against India in the third one-dayer with interest. They would like to see more of that from the English allrounder. He will have a bigger role to play in the company of another big-hitting allrounder Ravindra Jadeja, whose left-arm spin wasn’t incisive in the UAE. He would welcome the return to India.
Curran is expected to open the bowling with Deepak Chahar, one of the few who performed to potential last year. That too, despite contracting COVID-19 weeks before the tournament. And then there’s Shardul Thakur, who has been a sensation during the Australia tour and the limited over games against England. Chennai would want him to stretch that form to the IPL.
The omens are good for Chennai. Raina’s back, Curran and Thakur are in sterling form. And the rest will be keen to be part of the process of Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming. Trust the process has been Dhoni’s refrain. Chennai certainly have their tails up.
Hark! The yellow fan brigade has started whistling again.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu, KM Asif, Dwayne Bravo, Deepak Chahar, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Narayan Jagadeesan, Karn Sharma, Lungi Ngidi, Mitchell Santner, R Sai Kishore, Ravindra Jadeja, Robin Uthappa, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sam Curran, Shardul Thakur, Suresh Raina, Moeen Ali, Krishnappa Gowtham, Cheteshwar Pujara, Harishankar Reddy, C Hari Nishaanth and Bhagath Varma