Brendon McCullum Suresh Raina ravindra Jadeja MS Dhoni Chennai Super Kings 1
Brendon McCullum (left) will open in Chennai’s power-packed batting line-up PTI

Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are unarguably one of the finest T20 teams anyone could ask for. A world-class captain in MS Dhoni and a long list of match-winners make CSK the top contender for winning the Champions League T20 (CLT20) for the second time. Abhijit Banare analyses the squad, its strengths and weaknesses.

Captain: Analysing MS Dhoni as a captain is perhaps a separate book in itself. Time and again the ‘Captain Cool’ has soaked pressure and in an interview to All Out magazine recently, Dhoni revealed that he always loves taking run-chases down the wire because the competition boils down between the bowler and the batsman and nothing else. This is just one of the many insights of Dhoni’s exceptional abilities as a batsman and captain. Despite a long tour of England, expect him to be right on top of his game when he walks out leading the team against Indian Premier League 2014 (IPL) champions Kolkata Knight Riders.

Key Indians Players: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja

Four of the best T20 players from India complete the line-up along with overseas players. Dhoni’s abilities have already been mentioned earlier. In Jadeja and Ashwin, there are two clever spin options. And to top it up, both of them can contribute with the bat.

The fourth player is going at his best now. With the mental block of struggling with short balls out of his way, Suresh Raina will be at his destructive best, as he has ever so consistently been with the yellow jersey on . Raina at No 3 gives CSK the edge even if they lose an early wicket.

Key Foreign players: Faf du Plessis, Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Bravo

Two quality aggressive batsmen opening the batting is always going to be a sight to watch. Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith were instrumental in scripting many victories for CSK this IPL season. At No 4, CSK have a batsman who at present has a Midas touch. Faf du Plessis was in sublime touch in the recently-concluded tri-series in Zimbabwe. On flat decks in India, Faf might be feeling as if he has been called to smash club bowlers.

And completing the overseas slot is Dwayne Bravo. He missed almost the entire IPL 2014 season due to a shoulder injury. He can finish games with cameos towards the end of the game and is a reliable pace bowler. Thanks to so many power hitters up the order, Bravo might go unnoticed with the bat. But there would be no stopping him with the ball. He is an excellent death bowler. The deceptive slower balls and getting it in the block holes is something Dhoni will rely on, considering there aren’t many good death overs specialists in the team.

Strengths: Their strength outweigh the weakness by a huge margin which explains the reason for their success. Dhoni has all bases covered. In Ishwar Pandey, Ashish Nehra and Mohit Sharma, he has a reliable pace attack. On the other hand, his most dependable weapons in the Indian team – Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – continue to lend their services in the yellow jersey. The batting though is the main strength. When you have McCullum, Du Plessis, Dwayne Smith, Raina, Dhoni and Jadeja in the top five, there is little doubt that bowlers will be running for cover, especially on the placid Indian wickets.

Weakness: Though they managed to reach the semi-finals of the IPL once again this year, CSK were exposed on one particular front. The most consistent team this IPL season, Kings XI Punjab had taken apart their bowling attack. They had conceded over 200 on all three occasions they faced Punjab. The spinners looked predictable and so did the pacers. At the same time, in the crunch second eliminator, the quality batting attack failed to stand up to the occasion. It sparked off a rare instance of Dhoni lashing out against his players publicly which explains the extent to which he was disappointed with the batsmen. Though it was a one-off instance, a star-studded team failing to click together is not a rarity in this form of the game.

Past record: CSK won the trophy in 2010, months after clinching the IPL title for the first time. They followed it up by defending the IPL title next year. They have made it to the finals of IPL on five of the seven played so far. In Champions League, apart from the 2010 win, they ve made it to the semi-finals only once in 2013 where they lost to Rajasthan Royals.

This is probably the only team where the playing XI seems utterly predictable unless an injury keeps someone out. And what makes them unbeatable is that four of their batsmen are in form coming into the tournament. Du Plessis, Raina, Smith and Dhoni). And the rest are too good to fail regularly. It’s a complete side with all bases covered. It will be interesting to see how well they translate the stability in the team to deliver the desired results.

Chennai Super Kings Squad: MS Dhoni (c), Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, , Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishwar Pandey, Ashish Nehra, Mithun Manhas, Pawan Negi Mohit Sharma, John Hastings, Samuel Badree.

Complete coverage of Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014 here

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)