IPL 2019 team preview: Chennai Super Kings target encore

Three-time tournament winners and defending champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) head into the 12th season of the Indian Premier League with expectations sky-high from their legion of fans, and rightfully so.

Less than two weeks before the start of IPL 2019, CSK have no major injury concerns and the form of their talismanic skipper MS Dhoni in ODIs and T20Is for India this year augurs well for the franchise. Returning to the IPL fold in 2018 after two seasons away due to the spot-fixing scandal had left CSK fans stunned, but after the team scripted an epic comeback last year to claim the IPL title for a third time, the mood is buoyant.

Here’s a SWOT analysis of CSK ahead of the IPL opener on March 23 against RCB.

Captain: MS Dhoni

What’s left to say about the man who has 3891 runs in a CSK jersey and has led them to three IPL titles? He may be on his last legs as an international cricketer but his value as wicketkeeper and tactician is unparalleled. Dhoni had a very successful 2018 IPL season with 455 runs in 15 matches with an impressive average of 75.83.

MS Dhoni has led CSK to three IPL titles and in 2018 had a good run with the bat.
MS Dhoni has led CSK to three IPL titles and in 2018 had a good run with the bat. © AFP

Coach: Stephen Fleming

The former New Zealand captain has had a successful career as a coach in global T20 leagues including for CSK in the IPL and Melbourne Stars in Australia’s Big Bash League. He coached CSK to a third IPL title in 2018 after their return to the league following a gap of two years.

Squad:

MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja, Karn Sharma, Sam Billings, Mitchell Santner, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Dhruv Shorey, N Jagadeesan, Shardul Thakur, David Willey, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir, Kedar Jadhav, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Mohit Sharma, Ruturaj Gaikwad

Previous IPL standings:

2008 – runners-ups; 2009 – semi-finals; 2010 – winners; 2011 – winners; 2012 – runners-up; 2013 – runners-up; 2014 – eliminated in Qualifer 2; 2015 – runners-up; 2018 – winners.

How they fared in 2018:

After spending two years licking their wounds, the CSK team management arrived at the auction with a plan. They retained their core players and built a side around experience and young blood. After the auction, the Yellow Brigade was ridiculed as “Daddy’s Army” (they had nine players over 30, their average age being 34). But CSK turned what was supposed to be their drawback into their strengths to join Mumbai Indians as the joint-most successful IPL franchise. Both sides have three championships each, but CSK’s title run in 2018 will go down in IPL history as arguably the greatest comeback.

Back after a two-year gap and playing almost all of their 'home' games away from home, CSK defied the odds in 2018.
Back after a two-year gap and playing almost all of their ‘home’ games away from home, CSK defied the odds in 2018. © AFP

New additions: 

Having retained most of their squad from last year, CSK made just two purchases at the IPL auction last year – Mohit Sharma (5 crore) and Ruturaj Gaikwad (20 lakh).

Key players:

It goes without saying that the IPL’s all-time leading run-getter, Suresh Raina, will be expected to deliver heavily, as will Shane Watson who scored a century in last season’s final. Ravindra Jadeja didn’t have a strong IPL but remains a key player, and Kedar Jadhav, who missed the last season after injuring himself on day one, will have a point to prove. Then there is Ambati Rayudu, who carried the batting all through 2018.

IPL 2019 prediction:

With the core team retained, and no fitness concerns, CSK are a strong team to beat. Expect them to make the knockouts.