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IPL 2014: Chennai Super Kings’ bowling attack may present problems for MS Dhoni

Chennai Super Kings's Indian bowling contingent doesn't look strong this season © IANS (File Photo)
Chennai Super Kings’s Indian bowling contingent doesn’t look strong this season © IANS (File Photo)

Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have been the best team in the history of the Indian Premier League (IPL). They have won the IPL twice and finished as runners-up on three occasions. But after one game in IPL 2014, MS Dhoni’s side doesn’t look strong to scale those heights. Shrikant Shankar explains why the bowling may affect Chennai.

After the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 auction, it seemed that Chennai Super Kings (CSK) did not make the best purchases to win the competition. They let players like Michael Hussey and Albie Morkel go. These are players who have helped them win two IPL titles. Chennai made some buys in the auction, but the Kings XI Punjab were the ones who stole the show. Chennai are the best team in IPL history. Apart from winning two titles, they have finished as runners-up on three occasions. They have also finished in the top four in every season. That is some record!

This time though, Chennai may not be strong enough to scale those heights. Some may feel that this is a knee-jerk reaction after their loss against Punjab on April 18. But a close look at their squad, in fact into their bowling line-up will reflect problems. Chennai amassed 205 runs for the loss of only four wickets against Punjab. Their batting is not an issue. Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum were two good buys in the auction and both scored half-centuries. Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni also scored quick runs. But their bowling could not stop Punjab from cruising to victory in only 18.5 overs.

Looking at Punjab’s match against Rajasthan Royals on April 20, one can come to the conclusion that George Bailey’s team are brilliant chasers. But, Chennai would introspect to find that the bowling is certainly a worry. Their Indian bowling contingent is not the best in the IPL this season. While Ravichandan Ashwin is a very good bowler for Chennai and Ravindra Jadeja can be relied upon from time to time, one cannot exude confidence looking at the rest of the unit.

Chennai have a few good options in their bowling armoury, but the best of the lot are foreigners. With only four available, Dhoni’s team is forced to play the likes of McCullum, Smith, du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo. This leaves no option in the bowling attack. Smith was the only foreigner to bowl against Punjab and he is not a regular bowler. The options Chennai have are New Zealand fast-medium bowler Matt Henry, Australian seamers John Hastings and Ben Hilfenhaus and West Indies’ Samuel Badree.

Some of them are quality options to try out, but the big question: Which big-name will they drop? Bravo finished as the leading wicket-taker in the IPL 2013 season. But he didn’t bowl against Punjab. In fact, he did not bowl during the ICC World T20 2014 as he was carrying a side strain. Ashish Nehra did better than the others against Punjab, but he has a tendency of being expensive. Mohit Sharma took an absolute pounding against the likes of Glenn Maxwell and David Miller. He had a good season with Chennai last year, but a year later, the teams have had a fair look at him and know what he can do.

Pawan Negi is a young spinner and it will take him time to develop and become better. In the Indian contingent, Chennai are left with only Ishwar Pandey and Ronit More to come in as viable replacements. Bowling is definitely a concern and if the batting continues to do well, Chennai would rather chase than set scores!

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(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)

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