MS Dhoni may not be the batter that he was when he was hitting the best of the bowlers out of the park with ease but he is still as sharp and more experienced than the man who chose spinners over pacers for that famous T20 World Cup bowl out in 2007. The astute warhorse continues to be the face of Chennai Super Kings despite having given up all forms of international cricket.
It’s no surprise when CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan says “Thailaivan Dhoni will take care”. For the 2nd successive year, CSK have avoided wholesale changes.
Even after their ordinary run in 2022, CSK did not go for a complete revamp and it was no surprise that they tried to bring back familiar faces into the set-up at the mega auction. The likes of Ambati Rayudu, Robin Uthappa, Deepak Chahar and Dwayne Bravo have been trusted lieutenants of Dhoni and the skipper would have been happy to have them back.
Speculation about Dhoni’s future in the IPL has become a constant, but the former skipper had made it clear that there is a richer legacy that he is targeting. He pushed Ravindra Jadeja to the higher retention bracket after making it clear last year that he wanted to make sure that CSK manage to retain a strong core group.
Over the last few years, Dhoni’s batting has been scrutinized but CSK captain, it is safe to say, has seen himself more as a leader than a batter in the side. Despite his fading reflexes and ability to consistently pull off those late finishes, CSK managed to get past the finish line last season. Dhoni was happy to take a backseat and let the explosive batters take centre stage and expect nothing different from the skipper this year as well.
Much like last year, CSK has an explosive batting unit to make up for their captain’s shortcomings with the bat. The departure of Faf du Plessis is a big blow for CSK as the South African star, who will lead Royal Challengers Bangalore, had been on of their consistent run-getters.
However, in Devon Conway, CSK have a batter who can be an ideal replacement for du Plessis and partner Ruturaj Gaikwad at the top. There will be pressure on Conway as well as du Plessis had been a consistent performer for the Men in Yellow over the years. He had set the tone at the top of the order and continued bating at a healthy click while being the perfect mentor at the top for Ruturaj.
CSK did not even bid for Suresh Raina but bought back Ambati Rayudu, who has been a key member of the side. The 4-time champions also got back Robin Uthappa, who played deceive knocks in the play-offs after replacing Raina.
Moeen Ali and Ravindra Jadeja are two improved batters who have taken their T20 game to the next level over the last few years and CSK would want the two of them to continue doing the role of an enforcer. Ali will not be available for CSK’s opener due to visa issues.
Shivam Dube is an interesting addition as the young all-rounder, who has played 13 matches for India, had shown signs of excellence in the past. However, he has been inconsistent and would want to improve on that front with mentoring from Dhoni, his idol.
CSK will have to deal with the absence of Deepak Chahar, their premier fast bowler, who bagged a whopping sum of Rs 14 crore. Chahar picked a quadriceps tear during the limited-overs series against the West Indies in February and is expected to be out of action at last for the first half of IPL 2022.
CSK also miss their big Australian quick Josh Hazlewood who has moved to Royal Challengers Bangalore.
CSK will look to give the likes of KM Asif, Tushar Deshpande and Simarjeet Singh opportunities until Chahar returns. They will rely on young pacer Rajvardhan Hangargekar, the star of Inda’s U19 World Cup victory earlier this year, to continue troubling opposition with pace.
The spin-bowling department has Jadeja and Ali while uncapped leg-spinner Prashant Solanki and Sri Lanka’s mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana are young talents to watch out for with Dhoni guiding them from behind the wickets.
KEY PLAYERS – CSK
Ravindra Jadeja: Having been retained as the most-expensive player, Ravindra Jadeja will have to take up the responsibility of being one of the leaders in the side. Jadeja has been brilliant with both bat and ball in the recent past and CSK would want their premier 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 – over 3700 runs at a healthy strike rate of close to 130. Conway’s ability to play spin and pace well will be a big boost to CSK.
Rajvardhan Hangargekar. The U19 World Cup star might get a prominent role in the absence of Deepak Chahar at CSK. Hangargekar rattled oppositions with pace at the U19 World Cup and the youngster will be looking to make the most ot fhe 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.