Chennai Super Kings is arguably the most loved as well as the most hated team in the IPL for a reason. That reason being that they are the most consistent team and have been the best team of the IPL throughout the competition’s eight seasons. They have made it past the group stages each time, faltering in the knockouts only thrice and reaching the finals a record 5 times. In the inaugural season, they finished 3rd on the table, trumped KXIP by 9 wickets to reach the final in style before succumbing to the superior table-toppers Rajasthan Royals. Despite losing their record buy Andrew Flintoff very early in the tournament and Michael Hussey prior to that, they improved their performance, now settling for 2nd behind Delhi Daredevils but could not get the better of the Royal Challengers Bangalore when it mattered.
When the first half of the season concluded, nobody knew what was in store for the Chennai team that could only manage to win two matches. However, their strong Indian contingent containing the likes of Dhoni, Vijay, Raina and Ashwin, ensured that they would go on to win 5 of the remaining 7 matches, which proved to be enough in the end as they sneaked through to the semi-finals, courtesy of a marginally higher run rate that placed them at 3rd position. They defended modest totals of 142 and 168 in the semi-finals and finals against favorites Deccan Chargers and Mumbai Indians respectively, to emerge victorious!
Chennai was one of the few teams to manage to maintain their core base of players through retaining and buying back of players in the auction. This would prove to be a wise move, as they ended up 2nd on the table. They would then go on to beat table-toppers Royal Challengers Bangalore twice consecutively chasing down and defending totals of 169 and 205 respectively to become the only IPL team to have successfully defended their title!
The Chennai-based franchise maintained their high-standards of playing by finishing 4th and 1st in the IPL’s 5th and 6th editions and winning the qualifiers to become finalists two more years in a row. However, their deserved luck seemed to have finally sold them short. In the quest for an elusive third IPL title, they lost both the finals. First, to Kolkata Knight Riders when they failed to defend the mammoth total 191 thanks to a blinder of an innings by Manvinder Bisla and then, Mumbai Indians, when they suffered a huge batting collapse chasing 148 and despite the heroics of theit captain MS Dhoni, only managed to come within 23 runs of the required target.
Chennai failed to build on an impressive start to the tournament and had to settle for third position in the league. They beat Mumbai Indians comfortably in the eliminator. Despite being set the highest total in a knockout stage in the history of the IPL, Chennai Super Kings made 202 in response to Punjab’s 226 thanks to Raina’s blitzing 25-ball 87. They displayed great character and determination in the match and despite losing showed one and all, why they are considered to be the greatest team of the IPL!
Winning the IPL is not easy. You have to be at the top of your game throughout the fourteen matches of the group stages. Then, you must ensure not to falter in the qualifiers as Delhi have done time and again. Most importantly, like Punjab last season, you have to keep your head in the final, and provide a complete performance before you are finally able to call yourself IPL Champions! Chennai know it well, they have been on both sides of the metaphorical coin. Winning the IPL twice is not easy either. Chennai has done it, in a row that too. Ask any pundit, the competition is so tough that winning the competition thrice is virtually impossible. If any team can do it, it is probably Chennai. They have come close to the same too, multiple times, in fact. As expected, Chennai released only four players, bought back Michael Hussey and brought in new faces such as Kyle Abbott and Irfan Pathan into the team.
Intimidating is one word that accurately describes the Chennai Super King batting line up. McCullum, Hussey, Smith, Bravo, Raina, Du Plessis, Dhoni, Jadeja… the plethora of talent available in the batting ranks of Chennai is unparalleled. They have one of the best openers and finishers in the world. Suresh Raina is one of the most consistent batsmen in the history of the IPL and the team’s highest run-scorer in the tournament too. In the bowling department, we have the promise of bowlers like Matt Henry, Ishwar Pandey and Mohit Sharma coupled with the experience of Ashwin, Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra. The bowlers have the ability to pick up wickets when you least expect it. They can break up solid partnerships as easily as they can destroy middle orders. Ravichandran Ashwin, among many others for this team, has been a brilliant find for this Chennai team. He is their all-time highest wicket-taker and is a very hard spinner to play against in this format. The squad has the requisite talent as well as a most brilliant captain to lead them. Whatever changes occur in their squad or in their rival teams’ squads, Chennai Super Kings is and always shall be the favourites to win the tournament and deserving so.
MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Dwayne Bravo, Suresh Raina, Faf Du Plessis, Dwayne Smith, Ashish Nehra, Brendon McCullum, Mohit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Samuel Badree, Matt Henry, Mithun Manhas, Ronit More, Baba Aparajith, Pawan Negi, Michael Hussey, Rahul Sharma, Kyle Abbott, Irfan Pathan, Pratyush Singh, Ankush Bains, Eklavya Dwivedi, Andrew Tye.
IN: Michael Hussey (1.5 Cr), Rahul Sharma (30 L), Kyle Abbott (30 L), Irfan Pathan (1.5 Cr), Pratyush Singh (10 L), Ankush Bains (10 L), Eklavya Dwivedi (10 L) and Andrew Tye (20 L)
OUT: David Hussey (Unsold), Ben Hilfenhaus (Unsold), John Hastings (Unsold) and Vijay Shankar (Unsold).
Best Buy: Michael Hussey
Brendon McCullum – McCullum is undoubtedly the most destructive opening batsman in the current cricketing world. As he showed in the opening match of the inaugural season of the tournament with a blitzkrieg 153 not out, he can take the match away from any team in a manner of moments. An outstanding athletic fielder too; he is ferocious, he is aggressive and he is an absolute treat to watch on a cricket pitch. Once he gets going, there is no stopping him.
MS Dhoni – MS Dhoni is one of the greatest captains of all time. Always calm and cool, always calculating, the Ranchi-born batsman not only knows how to win a match through strategy but also through sheer brute force and technique. He knows when to sober down, bide his time and just get through the overs when his team needs him to before finally exploding. His trademark helicopter shot has won him more matches than he could care to remember and many more he will not care to remember.
Suresh Raina – Suresh Raina has played in multiple positions in the Indian batting order, ranging from No. 3 to No. 8, but if there is one place where he feels at home, it is Chennai. One can’t help but notice the remarkable change that this player undergoes donning the yellow jersey. Season after season, the Chennai batsman never fails to deliver for his team and he will be looking to repeat it this season too.
Ravichandran Ashwin – Ashwin started his cricketing career as an opener. We see glimpses of the same when he comes at No. 8 and smashes bowlers around or just keeps Dhoni/ Raina company too! He is however, known more for his deceptively simple-to-play-appearing spin bowling. He is not a great spinner of the ball and yet, he is one of the best, this tournament has seen. He is an important cog in Dhoni’s plans for both India and Chennai, and he will be looking to help his team to a record third IPL trophy!