Patrick Noone previews Chennai Super Kings.
Last season: Winners
Chennai secured their third IPL triumph with a convincing 8-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in Mumbai. It was their first season back after a two-year ban and the men in yellow hit the ground running, winning five of their first six matches before ultimately finishing second in the final ladder. Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu scored the bulk of Chennai’s runs while five bowlers took more than ten wickets throughout the competition.
Chennai were the least busy of all teams in this year’s auction, retaining 23 players from last season and signing just Mohit Sharma and Ruturaj Gaikwad as Mark Wood, Kanishk Seth and Kshitiz Sharma were released.
- Total players: 25
- Number of overseas players: 8
- Openers (3): Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson, Murali Vijay
- Middle order batsmen (7): Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Sam Billings, Dhruv Storey, Ruturaj Gaikwad
- Wicket-keepers (2): MS Dhoni, N Jagadeesan
- All-rounders (4): Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Monu Kumar, David Willey
- Wrist spinners (2): Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir
- Finger spinners (2): Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Santner
- Pace bowlers (5): Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Lungi Ngidi (injured), Mohit Sharma
Middle order batting
Chennai bat deep and have a wealth of options to choose from when selecting their middle order. Ambati Rayudu and Shane Watson routinely laid platforms for Chennai at the top of the order, allowing the engine room of Sam Billings, MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja to prosper later in the innings. That depth in Chennai’s middle to lower order allowed them to score at more than 11 runs per over in last year’s competition, the second fastest of all teams in the IPL.
Versatile bowling attack
A measure of how remarkable Chennai’s 2018 success was the fact that they had built their squad around playing their home games at the Chepauk Stadium, only to have to relocate after one match to the more seam-friendly MCA Stadium in Gahunje. The Super Kings have the attack to cover all eventualities with the spin threat of Imran Tahir, Mitchell Santner and Ravindra Jadeja alongside David Willey’s left-arm swing, although they will be be without the raw pace of the injured Lungi Ngidi. Mohit Sharma has been resigned to supplement the local pace talent of Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar.
13 of the 25 players on Chennai’s roster are the wrong side of 30. While it could be argued that having an experienced core is a positive – and it certainly did Chennai no harm last year – there is a suspicion that players such as MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo are on the decline and the squad lacks freshness with only a handful of young Indian talents emerging. As problems go, it’s far from the worst, but Chennai will have to start the 2019 season well if they are to avoid accusations of it being a season too far many of their stalwarts.
Death over bowling
For all the options Chennai have with the ball, the one player they seem to lack is a truly dependable death bowler. When bowling first last season, they only once restricted their opponents to less than 40 runs in the last five overs and only twice kept the overall score below 140. More often than not, they had the batting power to chase down big scores, only losing two games in which they batted second, but the fact remains that Chennai had the second highest economy rate during the last five overs. They will surely need to restrict teams on a more regular basis if they are to repeat last season’s success.
Key Player: Ravindra Jadeja
With bat, ball and in the field, Jadeja is effectively three players in one who balances Chennai’s team beautifully. In the middle overs, Jadeja was one of only four spinners to register an economy rate of less than seven runs per over in last year’s IPL and his tally of 11 catches was only bettered by Shikhar Dhawan’s 12, of non-wicketkeepers. Jadeja was rarely required with the bat but, when called upon, he scored at a healthy rate of 120.27. Chennai’s team is packed with stars, but Jadeja is arguably the hardest of all to find a replacement for.
1) Shane Watson
2) Ambati Rayudu
3) Faf du Plessis
4) Suresh Raina
5) MS Dhoni*+
6) Kedar Jadhav
7) Ravindra Jadeja
8) Dwayne Bravo
9) Mohit Sharma
10) Deepak Chahar
11) Imran Tahir
Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz