Note: This article was originally published when the player retention list was announced.
After a whole lot of social media sniggering for picking a squad that was filled with players on the wrong side of 30, Chennai Super Kings marked their return to the Indian Premier League with a fitting response – going all the way and claiming their third title. How is their squad shaping up for the upcoming season?
Short answer: The franchise has decided if it ain’t broke, don’t bother fixing it.
Long-ish answer? Read on.
Retention details / remaining purse:
Players retained: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, M Vijay, Shane Watson, Ravindra Jadeja, Mitchell Santner, David Willey, Dwayne Bravo, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Sam Billings, Harbhajan Singh, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma, Dhruv Shorey, N Jagadeesan, Shardul Thakur, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi.
Released: Mark Wood, Kanishk Seth, Kshitiz Sharma.
Traded in: None.
Salary cap available: Rs 8.40 crore.
Slots available: Indian players – 2, overseas players – 0
CSK squad breakdown
|Faf du Plessis||Shane Watson||David Willey||MS Dhoni|
|Suresh Raina||Ravindra Jadeja||Lungi Ngidi||Sam Billings|
|Ambati Rayudu||Mitchell Santner||Harbhajan Singh||N Jagadeesan|
|M Vijay||Dwayne Bravo||Deepak Chahar|
|Dhruv Shorey||Kedar Jadhav||KM Asif|
|Chaitanya Bishnoi||Monu Kumar||Imran Tahir|
Well, to put it shortly, the CSK way. The belief that no situation in a cricket match is out of their reach that permeates through the squad will once again be the biggest strength for Dhoni and Co as they aim for an unprecedented fourth IPL title. Even before their two-year hiatus from the league, the team prided itself on retaining the core as much as possible year over year. And familiarity seems to have bred more success than contempt for the men in yellow.
Apart from the obvious, Mitchell Santner’s availability for the entirety of this season after he missed the 2018 edition due to an injury makes him like a new signing, pretty much, and he will strengthen an already potent spin bowling attack while adding great athleticism in the field, and useful runs with the bat. Kedar Jadhav, should he stay fit, would also be like a new signing given he played just one match in 2018.
At the risk of this blowing back in our faces later next year, we are going to stick our neck out and say CSK still have an age problem. Sure, it was the experience within the squad that saved them from near improbable situations many times in 2018, but the fact is all the players are a year older and not any closer to their prime. Dhoni kept pointing out in his post-match chats that his side wasn’t the most athletic on the field and he had to make do with that, so it is surprising in a sense that the champions chose to retain such a big bulk of that squad with barely any room left for improvement.
Another definite area of concern is the death bowling, with Dwayne Bravo finishing IPL 2018 as the most expensive bowler in the end overs. Shardul Thakur might have a bigger role to play in that sense while Lungi Ngidi, who finished the IPL in mighty impressive fashion, can pick up the slack as well. But the medium-pace options outside the Powerplay remains a weakness for this CSK side.
Key areas / players to look out
Least amount of money left in the purse. Only two slots left to be filled, none for overseas players. The CSK think-tank might as well turn up to the auction in December in their flip flops, with a bucket of popcorn, put their feet up and watch Preity Zinta bid for all the players available.
On a serious note, two young Indian players who are good on the field and can offer something in the middle order with the bat or bowl a couple of quiet death overs will be what the franchise will be on the lookout for. And given they have released two uncapped players fitting that description roughly, means that is the area they would want to strengthen on. An out and out top order India batsman is an option to if the team wants to use Santner over Watson, for instance.
All said and done, CSK fans can pretty much just tune in for the beginning of the season now.