By Anand Philar
Chennai, April 1 (IANS) Chennai Super Kings (CSK), the most consistent performers in the Indian Premier League (IPL) boasting in seven seasons an enviable record of being champions twice, runners-up thrice and fourth twice, yet again appear to be the team to watch and beat in the April 8-May 24 tournament.
Led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni and guided by coach Stephen Fleming, the former New Zealand captain, CSK have evolved into a close-knit unit with a nucleus of players who have been together for most of the seven seasons.
So notable is its record that the team has provided a lesson in team building while reposing unswerving faith in its players, irrespective of their form. For the 2015 season, the team is brimming with experience and talent, a sure recipe for success.
At first glance, the Super Kings appear batting heavy with two strong hitters in West Indian Dwayne Smith and New Zealander Brendon McCullum who recently led the Black Caps to the World Cup final.
They are backed by the likes of all-rounders Francois du Plessis (South Africa) and Dwayne Bravo (West Indies) besides India’s very own Dhoni and Suresh Raina while Australian veteran Michael Hussey returns after spending a disappointing 2014 season with Mumbai Indians.
Yet, Dhoni will be spoilt for choice in the bowling department which has a good spread of pace and spin. Indian Pacer Mohit Sharma, who has improved tremendously in the past few months as a new ball bowler, and teammate offie Ravichandran Ashwin are likely to be the spearheads in attack.
Some clever spending in January’s auction has provided the team with enough bench strength should any of the West Indian or New Zealand players be unavailable due to their national commitments. A clutch of home-grown talent should also provide adequate cover for frontline players in case of injuries.
Hussey and former India seamer Irfan Pathan were the most expensive buys by CSK at Rs 1.5 crore apiece as the team released just four players for the auction while retaining the rest.
If anything, there will be stiff competition for the fringe spots in the playing eleven given the fact that Dhoni, Raina, Ashwin and Mohit are likely to be regulars apart from four foreigners, leaving just three berths up for grabs.
Over the past seven seasons, Dhoni has shown a marked aversion to experimentation, but conversely, it has helped him to nurture and build a strong core group comprising home players while resorting to rotating the foreign signings.
In the event, the Super Kings team has evolved into a thoroughbred capable of winning the trophy as the odds-on favourites.
Indian players: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohit Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Baba Aparajith, Ishwar Pandey, Mithun Minhas, Pawan Negi, Ronit More, Rahul Sharma, Ankush Bains, Irfan Pathan, Pratyush Singh and Ekalavya Dwivedi.
Foreign signings: Dwayne Smith (West Indies), Brendon McCullum (New Zealand), Dwayne Bravo (West Indies), Francois du Plessis (South Africa), Michael Hussey (Australia), Matt Henry (New Zealand), Samuel Badree (West Indies), Kyle Abbott (South Africa) and Andrew Tye (Australia).
Team Schedule – Home Matches: vs Delhi Daredevils (April 09); Sunrisers Hyderabad (April 11); Kings XI Punjab (April 25); Kolkata Knight Riders (April 28); Royal Challengers Bangalore (May 04); Mumbai Indians (May 08); Rajasthan Royals (May 10).
Away Matches: vs Mumbai Indians (April 17); Rajasthan Royals (Ahmedabad; April 19); Royal Challengers Bangalore (April 22); Kolkata Knight Riders (April 30); Sunrisers Hyderabad (May 02); Delhi Daredevils (Raipur; May 12); Kings XI Punjab (May 16).
IPL Record: 2008 – 2nd; 2009 – 4th; 2010 – Winners; 2011 – Winners; 2012 – 2nd; 2013 – 2nd; 2014 – 4th.
(Anand Philar can be contacted at email@example.com)