Updated: April 8, 2021 2:18:27 pm
The 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) kicks off on Friday and three-time champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will play their first match, against Delhi Capitals, on Saturday. Ahead of the tournament, CSK chief executive Kasi Viswanathan speaks to The Indian Express about the team’s preparation, Cheteshwar Pujara and MS Dhoni’s future. Excerpts:
Last season was underwhelming by CSK’s lofty standards. The team didn’t qualify for the playoffs. Did Dhoni give a team talk after the tournament?
No. Normally what we do is, we have a process set before we start a tournament. So we did the process for last year’s tournament also. It so happened that we missed some of our best players, and a couple of them got infected by Covid. Those (the situation) were beyond our reach. Now the team is in good shape. The process has been good. They have been having practice sessions for the last 15-20 days. And we believe in our process. The captain is very clear – you should do the process properly and if the process is fine, the results will come.
Could this be Dhoni’s final year in the IPL as a cricketer? And if indeed this is his final year, do you have a succession plan ready?
See, I don’t think it is going to be his final year. This is my personal view and I don’t think we are looking at anybody now.
Ravindra Jadeja hasn’t played any competitive cricket after he got injured in Australia. How is he shaping up at the nets?
See, Jadeja has been cleared by the NCA. He has joined our team for practice. He is looking good. He is working hard. And we are hoping that he will be fully fit by the time the IPL starts.
Suresh Raina also had very little game time coming into the IPL.
He played the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. After that he has been practicing. He didn’t want to play a 50-over tournament (Vijay Hazare Trophy). (But) he has been practicing with us also for the last 10 days. He is very keen to do well. See, a player of his calibre who has done so much for CSK as well as the highest run-getter in the IPL for a period of the last 10-12 years (before Virat Kohli overtook him), he is very keen to prove himself.
Raina had abruptly left the CSK camp before the start of the last year’s tournament. Were there any hard feelings on his return?
Nothing. CSK is like a family.
When you picked Pujara at the auction, everybody clapped. Pujara wasn’t a part of the IPL for the last few years and the common perception is that he is a red-ball specialist. What was the thought process behind bringing him on to the fold? Is it that you wanted to honour his cricketing achievements or he will have a role to play in this IPL?
See, we also wanted to honour him, that’s for sure. But at the same time, I can tell you one thing, a person of his calibre with such good technique, he can adapt to any format. That is our view. He can be a player who can contribute a lot to CSK. That’s what we felt and that is the reason why we picked him. He will certainly have a role to play (up the order), but I cannot say whether he will play the first game or the second game. That is not the question (also). He is an important part of our group and we look forward to his contribution.
You had a clear-cut auction strategy, investing heavily in Moeen Ali (Rs 7 crore) and K Gowtham (Rs 9.25 crore), two spin-bowling all-rounders. But this year also, matches will be played at neutral venues albeit in India. Does it upset your plans a bit?
We are playing our matches in India where spinners have always been useful. That is one of the reasons why we picked the spinners, to strengthen our spin department. And invariably now that we are playing 10 games at one centre, the wickets will become slow (and) it will be useful for us.
Will it be difficult to fill Shane Watson’s void?
See, it is very difficult to fill the void of Watson and what he has done for us in the last three years. But at the same time, we will have to respect his sentiment, that he was the one who wanted to retire. It will be difficult, but we will definitely work on it.
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