Suresh Raina has most runs in the IPL © IANS
Suresh Raina has most runs in the IPL © IANS

Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have been by far the best team in Indian Premier League (IPL) history. They have never failed to make it to the final four, and are the only team other than defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to have won the tournament twice. Shiamak Unwalla offers a preview to CSK ahead of IPL 2015. IPL 2015 Auction: Chennai Super Kings full list of players bought

CSK are perhaps the greatest T20 franchise in world cricket. No other team has dominated and performed as consistently well as the men in yellow since the inception of IPL in 2008. Here are their strengths — of which there are many — weaknesses, and key players. IPL 2015 Auction: Delhi Daredevils full list of players bought

Strengths: The Chennai brigade have a world class line-up that starts with heavy hitter Brendon McCullum, consolidates with fire-fighter Faf du Plessis, continues with “IPL legend” Suresh Raina, followed by the multi-talented Dwayne Bravo, and ends with Mr Finisher MS Dhoni. Then there is the bowling attack comprising of Mohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ashish Nehra, Pawan Negi (remember that fifer in the CLT20 2014 final?), Ishwar Pandey, and now Irfan Pathan. IPL 2015 Auction: Kings XI Punjab full list of players bought

What marks CSK as truly special though, is that they have maintained the same core of players for years now, while periodically adding key members. Dhoni and Raina have been with CSK since Year One, while the likes of Ashwin, Bravo, and du Plessis came after a couple of seasons. Jadeja was picked up the moment the time was right, as was McCullum. Now with Irfan’s inclusion, the side has a much-needed pace-bowling all-rounder. It is CSK’s art of building a side that has led the team to dizzying heights. IPL 2015 Auction: Kolkata Knight Riders full list of players bought

Weaknesses: There is no obvious weakness in the side. CSK have traditionally struggled with their pace bowling, particularly the Indian component of their bowling. But with Mohit’s emergence and the inclusions of Nehra and Irfan, even that gap seems to have been plugged. Perhaps the biggest challenge CSK will face will be that of expectations.

Key Players: In a side with so much bench strength, half the side will be considered key players. That said, McCullum’s role at the top of the order will be crucial for India. Given his form in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, one can expect big things from the man who led New Zealand to their maiden World Cup final. IPL 2015 Auction: Mumbai Indians full list of players bought

It will not be an exaggeration to call Raina an IPL legend; he is still India’s most successful T20 batsman. His IPL record speaks for itself; his ability to take the game away from the opposition and perform in big matches is second to none. IPL 2015 Auction: Rajasthan Royals full list of players bought

The one dark horse of CSK’s campaign could be Irfan. The left-handed all-rounder, once considered India’s brightest prospect, would be hoping to get the chance to prove his worth and force a national comeback. IPL 2015 Auction: Royal Challengers Bangalore full list of players bought

Chennai Super Kings (CSK) squad: MS Dhoni (c & wk), Suresh Raina, Ashish Nehra, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum, Irfan Pathan, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Smith, Matt Henry, Ishwar Pandey, Mohit Sharma, Michael Hussey, Mithun Manhas, Pawan Negi, Baba Aparajith, Ronit More, Rahul Sharma, Kyle Abbott, Ankush Bains, Pratyush Singh, Eklavya Dwivedi, Andrew Tye. IPL 2015 Auction: Full list of players unsold for IPL 8

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and cricket fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @ShiamakUnwalla)