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CSK Season Preview: A rusty batting order and the league’s finest spin contingent

At which position MS Dhoni would stride in is an intriguing question, more so after Raina’s departure. Mostly it would be situation-dependant, but unshackled of international chores, would he turn more enterprising?

Written by Sandip G | Updated: September 19, 2020 8:32:15 pm
iplA CSK training session in the UAE (Twitter/CSK)

Q: Can the Chennai Super Kings Dad Army win IPL 13?

A: If Dhoni’s aging men sustain the intensity and the spinners come to the party, CSK they could be kings again.

Honours board

Winners: 2010, 2011, 2018

What can work for them

CSK have arguably the finest spin contingent in the league. Barring an off-spinner—if you discount the part-time menace of Kedar Jadhav—they have spinners of all hues. There are three leggies and three left-arm spinners, each bringing a different dimension to the game. If the pitches tend to be on the slower side in the Emirates, there could be no more a deadlier proposition than Chennai Super Kings. Just imagine the destruction the trio of Ravindra Jadeja, Imran Tahir and Piyush Chawla can unleash on batsmen.

The three-time-winners’ pace cartel is equally diverse. There is the left-arm seam of Sam Curran, the pace of Lungi Ngidi, the swing of Deepak Chahar, the ingenuity of Dwayne Bravo and the discipline of Josh Hazlewood. Together, they check most skills in the T20 bowling manual. And they offer plenty of experience—between Bravo, Chawla and Tahir, they share 1137 T20 sticks.

Maybe, they lack a toe-crusher hurling tearaway, but then they never trusted one. Over the years, they have built their success on skill more than power, cunning and craft than bluster and brio.

Where they can falter

A casual gaze at the roster reveals gaps and cracks aplenty. Beyond any doubt, they are an ageing side, with several players of their nucleus long retired from international cricket. Five of their automatic picks are over 35, and have not fared particularly well in their recent competitive fixtures. It’s been more than a year since Dhoni was spotted in a cricket match of any sort, Murali Vijay endured a disappointing domestic season, Kedar Jadhav looked a spent force in the limited over games in New Zealand, and Ambati Rayudu’s best years are sepia-tinted.

The circumstances, thus, don’t bode well for the batting department, further weakened by the departure of Suresh Raina. Barring Shane Watson, none of the top-five are freewheelers who could hammer away and nail the game straightaway.

Will they think of …

Playing Dhoni at No,3 or push Jadeja up the order:

Intriguing would be the spot Dhoni would stride in, more so after Raina’s departure. Mostly it would be situation-dependant, but unshackled of international chores, would he turn more enterprising? He has been in a belting mood in the nets, to believe brief footages from the nets.

READ | How Suresh Raina’s absence can impact CSK

Nonetheless, there are alternatives. Jadeja, whose batting has undergone a renaissance in recent times, could be deputed with Sunil Narine-like top-order cameos. If not No 3, his recent flourish with the bat impels an upgradation of batting spot. Sam Curran could be assigned a similar role as well. It also presents an opportunity for up-and-coming batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad, if he can recover in time from the infection. As he has repeatedly shown in domestic fixtures, he can unleash the heavy artillery when he wants to, boasts a strike rate of 135 in domestic cricket and a full canvas of attacking strokes. There is of course the experienced Rayudu too.

Say hello to…

Sam Curran’s previous season, with Kings XI Punjab, hardly turned heads. He leaked 9.78 runs per game, and his 10 wickets from nine games cost 32. Nonetheless, the 22-year-old’s limited-overs skill-set is stupendous. Over the last few months, he has added a cutter and slow bouncer, had become more adept at manipulating the crease and exploiting different angles. Often under-utilised as a batsman in shorter forms, he could unfurl sheer mayhem with the willow too. There are whispers already that he could be the surprise No 3.

Remember the name…

R Sai Kishore, a left-arm spinner more in the classical than contemporary mould, he is incredibly skilled and shrewd. He is one of the rare breeds of spinners who can pick wickets, block runs, pile dots at the death and bowl in the power-plays. A few numbers he racked up in last year’s Syed Mushtaq Trophy are as revealing as they are instructive. He was the most economical bowler (4.68) as well as the most successful bowler (20 wickets at 10.40 in 12 games). And of those 20, 15 came in the power-plays. It could be difficult to accommodate him straightaway in the eleven with the depth and quality of spinners at CSK’s disposal, but at some point in CSK’s campaign, he could get his break.

Quarantine Quotient: Very High

Staying indoors for 80 days will test all teams. But age, experience and leadership could have a say.

Average age: 30

Total Experience: 3286 T20 games

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