All hell has broken loose in international cricket over the last week. And this has indirectly affected the future happenings of the Indian Premier League. Steve Smith, Australia’s captain, and also the captain of the returning Rajasthan Royals, has been given a one-year ban from top-level cricket by his board. Ditto for David Warner, who had till now successfully captained the Sunrisers Hyderabad since 2015 – winning one title and finishing top scorer of the IPL twice. Both captains have stepped down from their respective IPL teams, leaving them a huge gap to fill.
Watching keenly will also be the returning Chennai Super Kings, who are back in the IPL after two years. The last match they played was the 2015 IPL Final against Mumbai Indians, which they lost. Since then, spiritual son MS Dhoni captained the Rising Pune Supergiants in 2016 – where for the first time a Dhoni-led IPL team failed to make the playoffs – and played under Steve Smith in 2017 when the Supergiants made the Final to lose heartbreakingly by a single run.
The Whistle Podu core team is back in 2018. Their fans will welcome their return at the Wankhede Stadium against arch-rivals Mumbai Indians on April 7 in the first match of the eleventh season.
Mumbai Indians might technically be the most successful team in the IPL’s ten-year history by winning 3 titles. But in the 8 years that CSK played, no team has been more consistent or won more matches. The Dhoni-led CSK has reached a stunning 6 IPL Finals in its 8 seasons. It has won two IPL titles – in 2010 and 2011. It is the only IPL team to win back-to-back titles. Between 2010 and 2013, it reached four consecutive Finals – lost to KKR in 2012 and Mumbai Indians in 2013. CSK is the only team to have reached AT LEAST the semifinals in all its seasons – in 2009 CSK bowed out in the semifinals (when there was no playoff format), and in 2014 CSK won its eliminator against Mumbai before losing to Kings XI Punjab in the semifinals. Those two seasons were the “failed” campaigns for CSK – which says a lot about their machine-level standards. One wonders if they will immediately come to the party after a long gap, in which all its top players have become a little less effective.
CSK have the highest winning percentage among the IPL teams in ten years. It has won 60.68 % of its games. Mumbai is second with 58.2.
Despite losing two years, CSK has still won the second highest amount of games, 79. It has played 132, compared to Mumbai’s 157 (won 91).
CSK has topped the group stages only twice in its 8 qualified seasons. Both times, in 2013 and 2015, Mumbai Indians went on to win the title. When CSK won in 2010 and 2011, it had finished third and second in the group stages respectively.
Nobody has defended a lower score than CSK did in 2009 – when it defended 116 by bowling out Punjab for 92.
CSK’s top batsman Suresh Raina holds the record for the maximum IPL runs scored, 4540. He also holds the record for most number of catches, 86.
CSK’s Lakshmipathy Balaji was the first bowler to take an IPL hat-trick back in 2008.
In 2010, after two strong performances, CSK started as favorites to win their first ever IPL title. It was a matter of time. But things went pear-shaped quickly for MS Dhoni and his men. They managed to win only 2 of their first 7 games and were in danger of being the first team to be eliminated with just half of the season over. At this point, they were in the bottom position. CSK then won 5 of their next 7 games – finishing with a 50% win-loss record in 14 games. It was the first time four teams were tied with this same record – winning 7 and losing 7. CSK edged RCB, DD, and KKR into the third position with a better net run rate. After losing their penultimate game to Delhi, CSK were still outside the top 4. They entered a do-or-die contest against favorite whipping boys, Kings XI Punjab. Punjab shocked them with a 192 in Dharamshala. But after openers Hayden and Vijay failed, senior pros Raina, Badrinath, and Dhoni stepped in to score quick half centuries and win the game by 6 wickets with two balls to spare. Nobody had expected CSK to pull off a Houdini after the first half of the group stages. Yet, here they were, again. They then defeated Deccan Chargers and Mumbai Indians at the DY Patil Stadium to win their first title – against all odds.
CSK have a winning record against all the teams, except 3-time champs Mumbai Indians. They have won 10 and lost 12 against Mumbai. Their losses include Final defeats in 2013 and 2015, while their wins include the 2010 IPL Final. CSK won all three encounters in the 2014 IPL season, but have lost their last three games against Mumbai in the 2015 season. MS Dhoni’s six IPL Finals as captain is still a record (and seven IPL finals as the player as well).
In the second Qualifier of the 2014 IPL season, Kings XI Punjab arrived on the back of a stunning group stage campaign – winning 11 of its 14 games in a fairytale season. But it lost its first qualifier to KKR, leaving it in a do-or-die contest against the seasoned CSK team. Kings XI struck gold with opener Sehwag scoring a swashbuckling century to help them to a year-best 226 at the Wankhede. Now, we’ve all seen some stunners over the years by many batsmen. But in the chase – which CSK eventually lost – Suresh Raina played the most memorable innings by an Indian batsman in IPL history. He scored a 25-ball 87 and was well on his way to getting the quickest ever limited-overs century before he was run out. When Raina went, the score read 100-3 in 6 overs. Scoring 127 in the next 14 didn’t sound very tough, but the batsmen after him struggled. McCullum, Jadeja, and Dhoni were no match. Raina had scored runs on another level that day, in a losing cause. But nobody will forget that innings.
CSK has clearly gone for wisdom over hot blood. You’ll recognize the core: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Murali Vijay, Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo. The familiar faces missing there are R. Ashwin and the retired Ashish Nehra. Interestingly, CSK – who many refer to as the “Old Age Home” in 2018 – have selected some Mumbai loyalists too in Ambati Rayadu and Harbhajan Singh. None of them are below the age of 30. Their overseas players, Shane Watson and Imran Tahir, are above the age of 36. Only Sam Billings, Mark Wood, Lungi Ngidi, Mitchell Santner and Shardul Thakur are the relatively young internationals.
Experience. Dhoni, Raina, Jadeja, Faf, Bravo have been there and done that several times. They aren’t a team of flashy excesses. The team is well rounded on paper – with every player serving a purpose. It’s a man’s game for CSK. Young Lungi Ngidi could lead the bowling attack.
Too much experience. Not enough fast legs or hot blood – no game changers, except perhaps Bravo on his best day. Kedar Jadhav is not a good fielder or runner, Dhoni can’t hit hard anymore, Vijay was an afterthought, Raina is inconsistent, Jadeja is out of practice, Tahir can be expensive and slow, Harbhajan can’t pick wickets, and Watson is hit or miss. This season can either be a well-oiled clinical machine-like performance or could end up in a disaster in which we might see Billings and Santner carry the team through the second half.
Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayadu, MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir
Bench: Shane Watson, Harbhajan Singh, Mark Wood, Deepak Chahar