Three months in a relatively short time in cricket and a lot can happen in those three months, especially if you are the policy-maker at the Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
On the back of their poor performances in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020, where CSK failed to make it to the playoffs for the first time, changes aplenty are mooted. Over the years they have set such a high standard in the cash-rich league, that a blip in a lifetime is almost blasphemous for the Chennai-based franchise and their ardent fans-the yellow army!
In the desert of United Arab Emirates (UAE), they looked jaded, clueless and a shadow of former-self-who have 3 IPL triumphs to their name. The upcoming IPL auction thus provides a golden chance for the franchise to reset their goals and refresh the team with youthful places replacing the old-guard.
The MS Dhoni-led team will be one of the franchises who need to rebuild their team from its scarp to make a massive comeback via the IPL 2021 auction. After a sub-standard showing in IPL 2020, CSK are likely to make alterations in its playing XI.
Out of their roster, CSK have retained inspirational skipper MS Dhoni apart from Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, Sam Curran, Josh Hazlewood, Lungi Ngidi, Ambati Rayudu, Karn Sharma, Mitchell Santner, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir, N Jagadeesan, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, and R Sai Kishore.
CSK and areas to improve
There were many reasons the Super Kings endured their worst IPL campaign. First, the abrupt return to India of Suresh Raina, their vice-captain, who left the IPL bubble in the UAE in controversial circumstances unsettled the team composition.
The challenge for Dhoni and Super Kings’ coaching staff led by Stephen Fleming mounted after senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh opted out of the IPL due to personal reasons and never arrived in the UAE.
Further misery unfolded as Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad were among a group of more than a dozen in the Super Kings contingent to test positive for Covid-19, which robbed the squad of valuable training time.
In addition, their constant presence MS Dhoni the batsman had his worst IPL as he managed just 200 runs in 12 innings at a strike rate of 116.
CSK will eye some big names to fill the void left by Watson in the top order, and Piyush Chawla in the spin department. The three-time champions will also look to invest in some young legs to bring down the average age of the team to early 30s. They will target an explosive batsman to fill in the void left behind by the departure of Australian all-rounder Shane Watson.
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) January 27, 2021
CSK and prospects
CSK will massively focus on the Indian players as they have currently 6 more available slots, including the only absence of Harbhajan, the CSK roster is now devoid of a front-line off-spinner. However, they still have the services of leg-spinners Imran Tahir and Karn Sharma.
Given that the IPL will be hosted in India, CSK will likely play half of their league matches in Chennai, where the wicket usually assists spin. Although they have Ravindra Jadeja in the ranks, a right-arm off-spinner will be more competitive against left-handed spinners.
The lack of effective middle-order batsmen resulted in low-scoring rates for CSK throughout the tournament last year. With the departure of both Watson and Jadhav, either Rayudu or du Plessis are expected to open alongside the talented Ruturaj. Notably, the recently-traded Uthappa could also be seen as an opener. Also, the CSK management will be monitoring the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy to pick Indian player.
All in all, a lot is about to change for the Super Kings, but the man at the helm-MS Dhoni as always will hold the key.