IPL 2019: Will Chennai Super Kings successfully defend their title this year?
The return of CSK last year was met with a lot of expectations, and it's safe to say they stood up to those expectations with a third IPL title. Let us look at the the players they have acquired this year.
Players acquired in the IPL auction
CSK went into the auction after releasing just one player from the squad of 2018: Mark Wood. They did not tinker with the squad that had won them the IPL, and were not expected to play a major role in the 2019 Auction. They bought just 2 players: Mohit Sharma and Ruturaj Gaikwad.
Mohit Sharma: Mohit Sharma returns to the CSK squad after 3 years with KXIP, after being bought at a hefty sum of Rs 5 crore in the auction. He had a fruitful career with CSK for 3 seasons; he picked up 23 wickets in 15 matches in the 2013 season and was the purple cap holder in the 2014 season. It's no wonder that CSK went all out for him with the little budget they had.
Ruturaj Gaikwad: Not much is known about Ruturaj Gaikwad as he has played just 5 T20s in which he has scored 131 runs at an average of 26.20 and a strike rate of 137.89. He can play for CSK when they want to experiment
Balance of the squad
When we talk about Chennai Super Kings, one thing always comes to mind: the balance of the squad in the team. Starting with the opening combination, there are as many as 4 international batsmen who can open the batting for the team: Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Faf Du Plessis and Murali Vijay.
Last year the pair of Watson and Rayudu proved to be the most successful opening combination, and they are sure-shot starters this year too.
The middle order consists of players who can stabilize after a poor start as well as capitalize on a good start. Players like Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav and Sam Billings are proven commodities in IPL. Even if 3 of the top order and middle order players get going, CSK are in for a big total while batting.
Talking about the all-rounders, CSK have players in the form of Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, David Willey and Shane Watson who on their day can win a match for the team with a single skill alone. They can provide the finishing skills in the death overs too.
Lastly, talking about the bowlers, Dhoni has an abundance of seamers and spinners at his disposal which gives him the luxury of playing different bowlers according to the pitch conditions. Last year CSK did not have a fixed bowling combination; the bowlers were rotated on the basis of the conditions. In some matches CSK went with a combination of 3 spinners while some matches just had a single specialist spinner along with Jadeja.
This year, as the home matches would be played in Chennai, CSK would look to play more spinners as the pitch in Chennai is a dry one. There would be a toss-up between 4 specialist spinners: Mitchell Santner, Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh and Karn Sharma
The uncapped Indian players
While CSK do not have big name uncapped players in their squad, they have players who can provide the required balance to accommodate foreign players. Indian bowlers like Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur can play when the team is looking to play 2 overseas spinners, whereas players like Dhruv Shorey, R Gaikwad and Jagadeeshan can be used as back-ups for star Indian players like Rayudu, Raina and Jadhav.
The return to Chidambaram stadium
In what comes as wonderful news for the fans, CSK would be returning to their fortress - the MA Chidambaram Stadium - after playing just one match there last year.
With an excellent squad and a return to their fortress CSK are the number one contenders to defend their title. Anything less than a top 4 finish would be a huge disappointment
Expected Playing XI
Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh / Mitchell Santner, Mohit Sharma, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi / Shardul Thakur