MS Dhoni may not be the hitter he was when he easily beat the best bowlers out of the park, but he’s still as perceptive and more experienced than the man who championed the famous T20 World Cup bowling Spinner over Pacer in 2007. The wily warhorse continues to be the face of the Chennai Super Kings despite having abandoned all forms of international cricket.
It’s no surprise when CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan says “Thailaivan Dhoni will take care of it”. For the second year in a row, CSK has avoided sweeping changes.
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Even after their decent run in 2022, CSK hasn’t gone for a complete overhaul, and it came as no surprise that they tried to bring familiar faces back into the mega-auction’s build. The likes of Ambati Rayudu, Robin Uthappa, Deepak Chahar and Dwayne Bravo were Dhoni’s trusted lieutenants and the skipper would have been happy to have them back.
Speculation about Dhoni’s future in IPL has become a constant but the former skipper had made it clear there is a richer legacy he is aiming for. He pushed Ravindra Jadeja into the higher tie tier after making it clear last year that he wanted to ensure CSK retained a strong core group.
Dhoni’s batting streak has come under scrutiny in recent years, but the CSK captain, it’s safe to say, has seen himself as a leader rather than a slugger in the team. Despite his failing reflexes and ability to consistently hit those late finishes, CSK managed to cross the finish line last season. Dhoni was happy to keep a low profile and focus on the explosive batters, expecting nothing less from the skipper this year.
Similar to last year, CSK has an explosive batting unit to make up for their captain’s shortcomings with the racquet. The departure of Faf du Plessis comes as a major blow to CSK as the South African star, who will lead Royal Challengers Bangalore, has been one of their consistent run-getters.
However, in Devon Conway, CSK have a batsman who can be an ideal replacement for du Plessis and partner Ruturaj Gaikwad at the top. There will be pressure on Conway as du Plessis has been a consistent performer for the men in yellow over the years. He had set the tone at the head of the Order and continued with a healthy click while being the perfect mentor at the top for Ruturaj.
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CSK didn’t even bid for Suresh Raina but bought back Ambati Rayudu who was a key member of the team. The four-time champions also brought back Robin Uthappa, who played bluffs in the play-offs after replacing Raina.
Moeen Ali and Ravindra Jadeja are two improved hitters who have taken their T20 game to the next level in recent years and CSK would like the two to continue playing the role of an enforcer. Ali will not be available for CSK’s opening game due to visa issues.
Shivam Dube is an interesting addition as the young all-rounder, who has made 13 appearances for India, has excelled in the past. However, he has been fickle and would want to improve on that front by being mentored by Dhoni, his idol.
CSK are grappling with the absence of Deepak Chahar, their best fast bowler, who bagged a whopping Rs 14 crore. Chahar tore his quadriceps during the limited-overs series against the West Indies in February and is expected to be out of action for good in the first half of the 2022 IPL.
CSK also misses its tall Aussie fast Josh Hazlewood who has joined Royal Challengers Bangalore.
CSK will try to give opportunities to the likes of KM Asif, Tushar Deshpande and Simarjeet Singh until Chahar returns. They’ll be counting on young pacer Rajvardhan Hangargekar, the star of Inda’s U19 World Cup win earlier this year, to continue worrying opponents with pace.
The spin bowling department has Jadeja and Ali, while naked leg spinner Prashant Solanki and Sri Lanka’s mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana are young talents to watch out for, with Dhoni guiding them behind the wickets.
KEY PLAYERS – CSK
Ravindra Jadeja: Ravindra Jadeja, who was held as the most expensive player, must take the responsibility of being one of the team’s leaders. Jadeja has been brilliant with both racquet and ball in the recent past and CSK want their top-flight all-rounder to be in good form.
Devon Conway: The New Zealand opener has big shoes to fill. But he has good T20 numbers to shine in the IPL – 3700+ runs at a healthy strike rate close to 130. Conway’s ability to play spin and pace well will give CSK a big boost.
Rajvardhan Hangarkar. The U19 World Cup star could land a prominent role at CSK in Deepak Chahar’s absence. Hangargekar shook opponents with pace at the U19 World Cup and the youngster will be looking to make the most of his chances at CSK this year.
CSK PREDICTED XI
Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devon Conway, Moeen Ali*, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (c and wk), Shivam Dube, Dwayne Bravo, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Adam Milne, KM Asif.