The three-time IPL champions come into the 2021 season having gone through a chastening experience in the previous season, their worst in the IPL as they crashed out of the playoffs and finished in 7th place. Slow starts and batting performances and inconsistent performances meant that the Men in Yellow never saw lift-off in their campaign and thus faced demoralizing defeats.
The team struggled with their fitness levels and also found changing gears tough in a format of the game whose ethos is big-hitting, big scores, and the glamorous shots. It was also a huge drop from the Super Kings’ usual dominion in the tournament.
The team has started its rebuild by shedding a lot of skin ahead of the new season and including new players into their ranks that fit the team dynamic well. Ahead of the 2021 season, let’s run our microscope through the ranks of the team from down South and see how they’re preparing and what could be in store for them as the new campaign dawns.
Players Out: Shane Watson (retired), Murali Vijay, Kedar Jadhav, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Monu Singh.
Players In: Moeen Ali, Krishnappa Gowtham, Cheteshwar Pujara, Harisankar Reddy, Bhagvath Varma, C Hari Nishanth
Batsmen: Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Faf Du Plessis, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Cheteshwar Pujara, C Hari Nishanth, Robin Uthappa
All-rounders: Ravindra Jadeja, Sam Curran, Dwayne Bravo, Mitchell Santner, Moeen Ali
Wicketkeepers: MS Dhoni (C), Narayan Jagadeesan
Spin bowlers: Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir, R Sai Kishore, Krishnappa Gowtham, Bhagath Varma
Pace Bowlers: Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Lungu Ngidi, KM Asif, Josh Hazlewood, M Harishankar Reddy
Probable playing XI
Faf Du Plessis
MS Dhoni (C, WK)
- Batting depth: Chennai Super Kings has always been a squad that had prided itself on its batting superpower in the IPL. Featuring league stalwarts like Raina and of course, MS Dhoni, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, and Ravindra Jadeja give extra might to their batting lineup.
- Opening options: The Achilles heel for CSK last season was no brisk starts to their innings and especially in the powerplay which meant they always ended up playing catchup and struggling to change gears in batting. But Robin Uthappa gives additional choices off the bench to their opening options of Jagadeesan, Faf Du Plessis, and Ruturaj Gaikwad and give CSK choices to flirt with their opening areas. Uthappa also doubles up as a floater batsmen option should things go south.
- Experienced squad: CSK have one of the most experienced squads in the tourney and their core players have played many seasons together with each other and most importantly won trophies together.
While this could be its last iteration before the imminent retirement of certain players and also the possible mega auction next year, the focus on this season is that CSK once again goes in with one of the most balanced squads in the tournament due to their wealth of options in respective departments.
Pace options: A lack of an express pace option might be a chink in the armour of the three-time champions. CSK has been a team that contains great spin options which could play to their advantage on a pitch like Chepauk.
But since they play their games in Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Delhi where the pace has been an advantageous proposition could see them be a pace bowler short in their ranks.
- Testing out the youth
- Shoring up options in the side before the mega auction next season
- Testing Jagadeesan as keeper-batsman (highly unlikely though)
- Fitness concerns
Due to their aged squad, CSK could face a few injury niggles during the season and there could be headaches for the fitness coaches and medical staff who to date have done a tremendous job of keeping a team with age-old players fit and playing every game.
- Dhoni’s final salvo at a trophy
Perhaps the IPL’s own version of “The Last Dance”, the forthcoming IPL season would put one question into bigger focus and set to amplify as it progresses – is this going to be MS Dhoni’s final bow?
His only piece of cricketing action now could see people scampering to their remotes to see their favourite man take to the ring for one last time and if possible get to fill their eyes with his image and tears should it be the last salvo from the man.
It would also put pressure on the squad to make sure that if he does, Dhoni goes out in the best manner possible, with a usual wry smile on his face, his family by his side, and the IPL trophy in his hands.
- Yet to appoint a vice-captain
Although it might not be a grave mistake on part of the team, they are yet to appoint an understudy for Dhoni. The incumbent long-standing vice-captain Raina is no more the second-in-charge, and it remains to be seen who could be the new vice-captain among a long list of candidates.
The chief of them potentially being Faf Du Plessis.
Players to Watch
- Moeen Ali – X-Factor Player
- Ruturaj Gaikwad
- Shardul Thakur
- Sam Curran
Venues they’ll play at (2021 Special)
- MUMBAI (5 games)
- DELHI (4 games)
- BENGALURU (3 games)
- KOLKATA (2 games)