MS Dhoni appears to be the focal point of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) campaign in this Indian Premier League (IPL) season.
Their auction team wore a shirt with an MSD quote; most of CSK's new acquisitions have talked up playing under the pedigreed skipper; and CSK's jersey appears to have army motifs in line with the Jharkhand keeper-batsman's armed forces associations.
What was laid bare for the Men in Yellow last season - their worst ever - is that captaincy makes a difference only when team combinations and strategies are well-planned. As the team lurched from one painful defeat to another, after backing a number of out-of-form players, it became clear that a major revamp was needed.
With another season looming, have CSK introspected hard enough despite last season's harsh realisations? Here are three reasons why CSK will not win IPL 2021.
#3 Lack of match practice for CSK's middle order
Kedar Jadhav was made the scapegoat after a collective batting failure last season, and Shane Watson's retirement has freed up a spot too. However, the team still has the internationally retired duo of MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina in the middle order, with both batsmen not having played in a long time.
Though Ambati Rayudu played well in the first game of the season in 2020, he lost form thereafter and made it difficult for CSK's finishers in Jadeja and Sam Curran to give the team a big total. He too isn't active in international cricket, and might add to CSK's woes. They have not stocked up on exciting middle-order options, with Robin Uthappa adamant on opening if he plays.
Thus, CSK could struggle in the IPL once more.
#2 Lack of express pace
Imran Tahir was included far too late into CSK's XI last season and the franchise would look to rectify that, particularly since the release of Piyush Chawla and the low reliability of Karn Sharma's leg-spin.
This means that Lungi Ngidi is unlikely to play all games, with Moeen Ali, Sam Curran and Dwayne Bravo possibly taking the other three overseas slots.
Deepak Chahar had a mediocre IPL 2020. While Shardul Thakur has been in excellent form for India in all formats, neither bowler is an express pacer who can trouble the opposition during the middle overs or the powerplay. Sam Curran too, while a smart operator, does not intimidate batsmen on surfaces with low lateral movement.
The absence of a genuine pacer might mean CSK chase large totals on flat pitches.
#1 Lack of attacking spin options
Krishnappa Gowtham was arguably poorly utilised by KL Rahul last season, but the spinner's high economy rate hardly bodes well for the team. Karn Sharma is often not accurate enough, or accurate only in spurts, and Jadeja had a poor season with the ball last year.
Though Moeen Ali bowled well on occasion against India, he is seen more as a controlling bowler than an attacking one. Imran Tahir appears the lone spinner who is capable of playing the attacking role, but with age not on his side, it remains to be seen whether he will be as effective this season.
There are a few rookie bowlers in the team, apart from the part-time spin of Suresh Raina, but these are unlikely to get CSK crucial middle-overs wickets. We might have to wait a bit longer to see MS Dhoni and CSK add to their trophy cabinet.