The experience quotient has always been Chennai Super Kings' (CSK) strength. The Dad’s Army has been able to silence critics of the high average age of the team through the solid performances of their veterans over the seasons.
The 2020 edition of the IPL will not be any different for the franchise from the South. Going into the tournament, CSK is among the top teams in terms of the average age of players.
Among the senior statesmen, Imran Tahir and Dwayne Bravo are going to be important cogs in their wheel. On the slow and low tracks in UAE, the wrist-spin of Tahir and the change-ups from Bravo are going to be crucial for CSK.
Both these players are among the bowlers with the best strike-rates in the history of the tournament. Their wicket-taking ability has allowed CSK to restrict opponents in the past.
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Imran Tahir has a phenomenal strike rate of 15.51 from 55 matches. He has picked up 79 wickets with an economy rate of less than 8 runs an over.
The 41-year-old also had a spectacular 2019 season in the IPL, ending up as the highest wicket-taker with 26 scalps. From the start of that season until the commencement of CPL 2020, the leg-spinner has been exceptional both in the middle overs (7-15) as well as in the death overs (overs 16-20) in T20s.
In the middle overs, which might well be the most vital period in a T20 game, Imran Tahir has a strike rate of 13.6 with an economy rate of just 6.34 runs an over in the last year.
In the same period, he has conceded 8.11 runs an over with a strike rate of 14.2 in the death overs. This is the reason why he ranks right among the best in this format of the game.
Dwayne Bravo has also been exceptional for CSK, especially at the death. The medium pacer has picked up 147 wickets from 131 matches at a strike rate of 17.59 in his IPL career. His economy rate of 8.39 is not bad considering the number of overs he bowls towards the latter half of the innings.
The Trinidadian contributed well in the 2019 season also, picking up 11 wickets from 12 matches at an economy rate of 8 runs an over.
It will give CSK a lot of confidence that both of them had excellent outings in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). Imran Tahir finished third on the list of wicket-takers with 15 scalps, whereas Bravo picked up 9 wickets from 9 matches.
CSK have a selection conundrum
The selection of four foreign players in the playing eleven might turn out to be a difficult task for CSK. Considering that Suresh Raina is going to miss the whole season, they might consider playing Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis together. In that case, they will have to select two players from Dwayne Bravo, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi and Sam Curran.
It is difficult for Lungi Ngidi or Sam Curran to get any sort of assistance from the pitches in the UAE. But when it comes to Imran Tahir, the slow-low surfaces would be ideal for him. Even though he is on the wrong side of 40, the nature of the pitches will mean he is their main bowler.
Dwayne Bravo is going to be invaluable with his slower balls and into-the-pitch variations in the slow-low pitches of the UAE. With his added ability with the bat, the 36-year-old is going to be crucial in the lower middle-order.
CSK might experiment with playing either of Watson or du Plessis for a part of the season and give a chance to Murali Vijay or Ruturaj Gaikwad. It would mean that Ngidi or Sam Curran would come in as the fourth overseas player. Bravo and Tahir might be played throughout the season.
Spin and medium pace are CSK's go-to weapons
CSK has historically relied on spinners and medium pacers more than out-and-out fast bowlers. This hasn’t changed in the 2020 edition. Yes, they have bowlers like Lungi Ngidi and Josh Hazlewood in their ranks, but the core is made up of Imran Tahir, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja and Deepak Chahar.
It would not be a surprise if the pitches in the UAE assist CSK’s style of attack. Bowling out and restricting oppositions have been an important element in the strategy of the CSK management. The presence of three bowlers in the top 10 wicket-takers last year is evidence of this.
The absence of Harbhajan Singh, who was one among the three, is certainly a setback for them. And the duo of Imran Tahir and Dwayne Bravo would certainly need to be at their best for a successful campaign for CSK this year.
CSK will begin their campaign this year against Mumbai Indians on 19th September.