With the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) all set to get under way in the UAE, the eight franchises have been busy with their preparations for the marquee T20 event.
Nearly two months of non-stop cricketing action will entertain fans around the globe as the very best from India and some of the biggest overseas stars take centre stage in the UAE.
Here, we look at how three-time champions Chennai Super Kings are shaping up ahead of their campaign opener on September 19.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, Kedar Jadhav, Murali Vijay, Faf Du Plessis, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ambati Rayudu, Mitchell Santner, Sam Curran, Josh Hazlewood, Lungi Ngidi, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma, Piyush Chawla, R Sai Kishore, Narayan Jagadeesan, KM Asif, Monu
CAPTAIN – MS DHONI
Having announced his retirement from international cricket after an illustrious career, ‘Captain Cool’ MS Dhoni will want to put on a show as he returns to the familiar comforts of the IPL.
The veteran has been the face of the franchise since the inaugural edition in 2008 and he has repaid the faith by leading the side to three IPL titles. His captaincy credentials with India are unmatched and the same has been the case in the IPL.
Dhoni and his side are the very definition of consistency in the IPL and have progressed to the play-off in every edition they have participated in. Dhoni’s calm and calculated presence on the pitch has played a major part in the rise of Chennai as a heavyweight of the IPL.
As a batsman, Dhoni’s finishing prowess has shone through his lengthy association with the franchise and there are few better than him in the role when it comes to the IPL. While Dhoni’s best days might be behind him at the age of 39, there is no doubt that he has plenty still left to give to Chennai.
It has been an eventful build up to the IPL to say the least for Chennai, with two senior stalwarts ruling themselves out of the tournament for personal reasons. The absence of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh is bound to hurt Chennai’s cause, especially when it comes to their domestic roster.
However, there will be no panic just yet from Dhoni and his men given the riches they still have at their disposal. As has been their modus operandi over the years, the franchise has once again banked on the experience provided by seasoned pros in a bid to land a record-equalling fourth title.
In Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo and Kedar Jadhav, they have no dearth of seasoned internationals in the batting department. Ambati Rayudu is another reliable option who has proved himself consistently in previous editions.
Where Chennai really has the edge though, is in their spin armoury. Imran Tahir, Ravindra Jadeja, Mitchell Santner and Piyush Chawla are arguably the strongest spin contingent among all eight teams in the fray. That Jadeja and Santner can also contribute with the bat only adds to Chennai’s firepower.
UAE’s slower tracks should play to Chennai’s strengths and they really should go all the way to the final on November 10 if the players live up to their reputations. While their spin stocks are plenty, there are significant resources in the pace unit as well. Australia seamer Josh Hazlewood is a superb addition to the roster and his recent form in England bodes well for Chennai’s prospects in the UAE. South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi and India’s Deepak Chahar provide further ammunition in the pace department for last year’s runners-up.
It is as complete a squad as they come for the Super Kings, although they would have loved to have an explosive batting option lower down their order. They will not feel the pinch if vintage Dhoni turns up in the UAE and their batting depth should go a long way in providing that extra cushion.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Domestic – Ravindra Jadeja
Spin will be key for all sides in the IPL this year and in Jadeja Chennai have the perfect man to exploit the dry conditions. He might not have the variations of someone like Tahir or Chawla, but what the India man brings to the table is the unwavering accuracy of his left-arm spin.
On slower tracks like in the UAE, Jadeja’s lethalness will only be amplified and his four overs should prove to be extremely crucial. The bowling will clearly be Jadeja’s biggest asset, though the all-rounder brings plenty of other qualities to the fray.
His batting abilities are often underrated, while there is arguably no better fielder in the outfield than him in world cricket. The runs he saves with his fielding efforts are worth their weight in gold and Chennai will consider themselves lucky to employ his services in the competition.
Overseas – Shane Watson
Dhoni will need a big tournament from fellow 39-year-old Shane Watson if Chennai are to go deep once again. The Aussie veteran opener has chipped in with vital contributions at crux stages of the last two IPL editions and is a batsman who revels under the spotlight of pressure situations.
With Raina pulling out of the IPL, Chennai needs a batsman to provide the fireworks at the top and there is no better candidate than Watson to perform that job. The veteran can take his time to get settled at the crease, but the big shots start to flow once he gets going.
He loves to play the long innings and four IPL tons and 19 fifties are testament to his staying powers at the crease. With more than 3,500 runs under his belt in 11 previous IPL campaigns, Watson definitely knows how to get the job done.
Youngster – Sam Curran
In a team filled with players over 30, England all-rounder Sam Curran adds a breath of fresh air with his youthful exuberance. The 22-year-old fetched big bucks in the 2019 IPL auction, with Kings XI Punjab paying for his signature. While he might have failed to do complete justice to his hefty price tag, Curran did have some good moments in his maiden IPL campaign.
With spin being the likely preferred option for teams in the UAE, Curran might find it tough to break into the CSK playing XI. However, his slower cutters should prove to be effective and his proven abilities with the bat could help lengthen the team’s batting order.
Chennai have spent a considerable sum to secure Curran’s services for the 2020 edition and it reflects their trust in the all-round credentials and potential of the Englishman.
Predicted XI: Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (C & WK), Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Imran Tahir, Piyush Chawla, Josh Hazlewood.
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