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By R Vishal
The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 returns to India with Ms Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings (CSK) playing hosts to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at Ranchi. The United Arab (UAE) adventure was a rather fun ride for the two-time IPL holders, breezing to four wins out of five games without really going full throttle in any of their games.
The hallmark of Chennai’s unparalleled success in the IPL has been an extemporary balance in the batting order which has the ingredients to make up a fantasy XI. After losing some of their reliable performers in this year’s auctions, the emphasis was not to unsettle the shape, balance and power of their batting line-up.
The less spoken bowling unit of Chennai has quietly gathered momentum and could well play an important role in taking the men in yellow far in IPL 7. After being clambered by Glenn Maxwell and company in their tournament opener against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), Dhoni has quickly zeroed in on a winning combination. Ravichandran Ashwin, the wily off-spinner’s bagful of variations leave batsmen in a state of trance. Ravindra Jadeja, who will bowl in tandem with Ashwin, will relish bowling his slow left-arm orthodox and the quicker ones in familiar surroundings.
After being taken apart by the Punjab batsmen, Mohit Sharma has picked himself up and displayed a string of consistent performances. Mohit’s crafty slower deliveries and impeccable line underlines the Haryana medium-pacer’s importance in this format. With Dhoni’s therapeutic man-management skills at his disposal, Mohit has seldom let down his captain and despite being unspectacular, Mohit is surely one to bank upon in Twenty20s (T20s). After a long wait in the wilderness, Ishwar Pandey has been Chennai’s surprise package and has impressed abundantly. Unlike Mohit, Ishwar relies on pace and a hint of bounce, and this is where the burly young man will be tested to the hilt.
Australian Ben Hilfenhaus has also been on target for the men in yellow, but their main concern will be the predictability factor, with Chennai being the only team to have not tinkered much with their team since the inception of the IPL. There is a glaring shortage of international experience in their bowling ranks too. Dwayne Bravo filled the shortcoming in the in the past admirably, but the West Indian all-rounder’s long term lay-off leaves a huge void. With the options on the bench being rookie New Zealand pacer Matt Henry and Australian John Hastings, a lot will ride on the frontline bowlers. It remains to be seen as to how much of a role veteran left-armer Ashish Nehra will be playing in IPL 7.
With Chennai playing only two of their round-robin games at their fortress, M.A.Chidambaram Stadium, the bowlers will miss the sea of yellow flags that have thrived under. Ashwin and Jadeja in the subcontinent are more than handful, and with Dhoni continuing to extract match winning performances from his trusted aides; Chennai will remain as one of the favourites to lift the trophy.
(R Vishal is a journalist and alumni of Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)
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