A successful 2021 season for MS Dhoni’s boys will depend on their ageing cricketers
Three-time former IPL champions, Chennai Super Kings have always been a symbol of consistency in the Indian Premier League. Led by the retired Indian wicket-keeper MS Dhoni, CSK have always reached the playoffs. The man-management, game plan execution and their ability to retain the core players in every auction have helped the Chennai outfit stay on top for long. However, their strength turned into weakness last year when the ageing players were blamed by the experts for CSK missing out on the playoffs for the first time since IPL’s inception. Raring to make amends for a poor last season, the Stephen Fleming-coached side will be eager to start the tournament on the front foot. Here’s a look at where CSK stand going into IPL 2021:
Down the years, CSK’s biggest strength has been its experienced players. From Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey to Faf du Plessis and Dhoni, the veteran players have often carried the team on their shoulders. The current squad sports a familiar look. In Ravindra Jadeja, du Plessis, Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa, Ambati Rayudu, Dwayne Bravo, Imran Tahir, and the captain himself, CSK has a wealth of experience.
All-rounders have always played a crucial role in CSK’s success. The current squad is no different. The addition of Moeen Ali and Krishnappa Gowtham to the existing all-rounders in Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Sam Curran, Bravo, Mitchell Santner and Shardul Thakur can only make the team stronger. The Men in Yellow have numerous batting and bowling all-rounders. It gives them the luxury to have extra bowlers or batsmen as per the requirements on a given day.
While age brings experience, it can also provide a different type of problem. Most of their star players are above 30. Quite a few of them don’t play international cricket anymore. CSK don’t have to look further than their captain fantastic. Lack of game time was evident in Dhoni’s batting as he struggled to middle the ball in the last IPL. He often takes up the responsibility of finishing a chase or setting a target, but his indifferent form was a major concern last season.
Veteran batsman Raina had retired last year, while Uthappa and Rayudu are not in the international fold. Star Indian all-rounder Jadeja is just returning from an injury. After skipping many international tournaments, it is not clear how fit he will be for the IPL. The lack of match practice could take a toll on these players. With IPL consistently setting high standards in fitness, the ageing players might be Chennai’s biggest weakness.
With CSK primarily focusing on local talent in the last auction, this IPL could offer a great chance for the Indian players to catch the selectors’ eyes. Uthappa and Rayudu will be keen on making a mark to revive their fading international careers. N Jagadeesan, C Hari Nishaanth and Ruturaj Gaikwad have a great chance of announcing their arrival at the top level. Pujara might also look at this year’s tournament as a chance to show his batting capabilities in the limited over format.
The main issue with CSK’s poor 2020 campaign was their inability to finish the matches on a flurry. Dhoni used to carry the responsibility of seeing out the game. But his lack of game time leading up to last IPL prevented him from executing that role to perfection. Others struggled to step up in those trying times. With a lot of Indian players who are either uncapped or not in the international fold of late, CSK might find it difficult to identify the finishers in their squad.
Ruturaj Gaikwad was one of the few positives out of a disappointing IPL 2020 campaign for CSK. He scored three fifties in just the six matches he played last year in the league. Dhoni will be hoping for the batsman to maintain that form in this season’s IPL as well.
MS Dhoni, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shardul Thakur, Sam Curran, R Sai Kishore, Robin Uthappa, Karn Sharma, Lungi Ngidi, Mitchell Santner, Ravindra Jadeja Moeen Ali, Krishnappa Gowtham, Cheteshwar Pujara, M Harisankar Reddy, K Bhagath Varma, C Hari Nishaanth. Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, KM Asif, Deepak Chahar, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, N Jagadeesan.