Despite the recent controversy about the team and its management, Chennai Super Kings are once again the favourites to win the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League. Led by captain cool MS Dhoni, Chennai have played five finals in the six editions so far, where they emerged victorious twice - in 2010 and 2011.
Such was their dominance, that after they had retained their five key players – MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Dwayne Bravo – it was a relief for the other teams, who were eyeing other players from the CSK squad. Chennai used their only Right to Match card to get back South African T20 skipper Faf du Plessis, who is a formidable batsman in limited-overs cricket. It is also a squad which has some of the best fielders, as Dhoni prefers players who are fit, and can save a minimum of 10-15 runs in every match.
In IPL 7 auction, while CSK had to let go Michael Hussey, they bought Brendon McCullum – who is believed to be the best T20 batsman by cricket experts. Dhoni added another asset to his formidable squad in form of Samuel Badree, who did extremely well for the West Indies in the recently concluded ICC World Twenty20 played in Bangladesh. The leg-spinner is expected to continue his good run in the first phase of the IPL which will be played in the UAE.
The never-say-die attitude is something which seperates them from the rest of the teams. MS Dhoni is world known for his ability to soak the pressure and deliver match-winning performances. The teammates respect him a lot, and the skipper has injected the never-say-die spirit among all the players.
Dhoni also doesn`t like to make too many changes in the squad, as a result of which the team bought back as many as six players, who had played for them in the past. It is a result of such faith, that the players perform so consistently for the team.
Key signings: Brendon McCullum, Samuel Badree, Dwayne Smith
Strength: Of late, he has been criticised for his captaincy skills, but MS Dhoni remains to be the backbone of this Chennai squad. He is known to show immense faith in his players, and he gives them the freedom to play their natural game. Since players like Jadeja, Ashwin and Raina are also regular members of the Indian team, CSK have a massive advantage over their opponents in terms of experience.
Weakness: Obviously, the departure of Michael Hussey has created a big hole in the team. The former Australian cricketer had played some match-winning knocks for Chennai in the previous edition, and only time will tell if McCullum too can come up with such knocks.
Indian players: MS Dhoni (captain), Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohit Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Mithun Manhas, Vijay Shankar, B Aparajith, Ishwar Pandey, Ronit More, Pawan Negi
Overseas players: Brendon McCullum, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Smith, John Hastings, Dwayne Bravo, Ben Hilfenhaus, Matt Henry, Samuel Badree
Probable playing eleven: Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishwar Pande, Ashish Nehra