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IPL 2023: CSK Squad Analysis: Despite inexperienced bowling attack, Yellow Brigade still formidable

IPL 2023: Chennai Super Kings (CSK) Squad Analysis: Despite inexperienced bowling attack, Yellow Brigade still formidable. Mukesh Choudhary and Kyle Jamieson are two major blow in bowling department.

IPL 2023: MS Dhoni to captain CSK in IPL 2023 Season |  Walking Wicket (Images: ©ChennaiIPL/Twitter)
MS Dhoni to captain CSK in IPL 2023 Season (Images: ©ChennaiIPL/Twitter)

Definitely Not! The city and the team that eats, sleeps and revolves around MS Dhoni have definitely not given up on their dreams of lifting the prestigious IPL trophy yet again for the fifth time in the tournament’s history. Unlike the previous season, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have not given any captaincy surprises yet before the tournament kicks off. So, ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts and get ready with your Yellove jerseys and flags because, Thala, Mr. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is going to wave the helicopter across MA Chidambaram Stadium till the Marina Beach so that the fans can whistle phodu at the top of their lungs after four staggering years.

A horrendous IPL 2022: Courtesy a Topsy-Turvy Management

Only two times, yes! Only twice in the 15-year history of the IPL have the four-time champions, CSK, finished at the 7th or lower position in the points table. Out of the total 14 games played, CSK could only manage to win only four in IPL 2022. The season was so poor that neither a batter nor a bowler featured in the top 15 highest run-scorers or wicket-takers list. That was a season to forget if any of the Yellow Brigade even remembers how the previous season went.

The question of the century that toppled the sleeps of many cricketing pundits was how did an experienced team like CSK with a strong core end up in the position they were in? A captain who led the team for 14 years quit as captain two days before the new season kicked off. A new puzzle with a captain with no clues, mid-season injuries to core players, and what not! If at all anything went right for CSK, it was Dhoni’s re-appointment as captain and the reinstatement of Ravindra Jadeja’s ties with the team. As much as CSK could afford to lose Jadeja the captain, they couldn’t manage to lose Jadeja the all-rounder.

IPL 2023_ Ben Stokes was bought by CSK for INR 16.25 crore in IPL 2023 Min-auction _  Walking Wicket (Images_ ©ChennaiIPL_Twitter)
Stokes was bought by CSK for INR 16.25 cr in IPL auction (Images: ©ChennaiIPL/Twitter)

What’s new this year for CSK?

A new year and new season begins on March 31, 2023, and CSK are once again set to play the first match of the tournament, just like old times. Well, new and CSK don’t go hand in hand, as the team has been known to retain its core, have the same old mechanisms and players for ages, and still be able to win trophies at will. However, this year has been really different for CSK. A rejuvenated team with the same old coaching staff, team management and captain but a young and vividly different team this year. Unlike the old days, the team this year isn’t a "Dad’s Army," but a mix of experience and young talents!

CSK bought a total of seven players in the IPL 2023 mini-auction. Out of which, four are uncapped players and three are international superstars. The team, which is known to have a conservative approach in IPL auctions just like any middle-class Indian family, actually went all guns blazing to secure the services of Ben Stokes for a whopping INR 16.25 crore. To sum up Stokes addition to the team, there is only one word: FIREPOWER! With recent speculation ruling out Ben Stokes’s availability as an out-and-out all-rounder and a pure batter to manage his workload and a recovering knee, even Ben Stokes, the batter, is enough to dread the opposition.

Another new and noticeable inclusion is Ajinkya Rahane. But Rahane’s inclusion only rings bells for the Cheteshwar Pujara saga. Maybe Rahane’s role could only be as a backup opener and a role model within the core group to nurture the future stars. CSK’s other noticeable purchase was Kyle Jamieson to address their death bowling vows in the absence of Dwayne Bravo. However, the death bowling gods don’t seem to be in CSK’s favour as the Kiwi bowler has been ruled out of the tournament with an injury. The rest of CSK’s new flag bearers are U-19 World Cup-winning superstars Shaikh Rasheed and Nishant Sindhu. While domestic emerging players Ajay Mandal and Bhagath Varma are the other two to wrap up CSK’s squad to meet the minimum requirement of 22 players.

IPL 2022, CSK vs MI, Top Performances_ Mukesh Choudhary's 3-23 goes in vain as MI beat CSK. MI and CSK are knocked out of the IPL 2022 playoffs race_Walking Wicket (Images ©BCCI_IPL)
Mukesh Choudhary took 16 wickets in IPL 2022 (Images ©IPL/Twitter)

Injury Injury? Which player do you want?

The only thing that has been buzzing more than the start of IPL 2023 is the list of injured players. The concern is not only with CSK but with the majority of the teams. On the list of CSK’s players running between the physios and scanners instead of running between the wickets are Mukesh Choudhary, Kyle Jamieson and Ben Stokes (who is only available as a batter but will bowl in crucial matches). However, Mukesh is still considered doubtful for the tournament and has not been ruled out yet. Jamieson, who has been ruled out already, has been replaced by South African all-rounder Sisanda Magala.

Decoding CSK: SWOT Analysis

The core. Yes, the same old core still remains intact. Which means, at least six of the 11 starting players will be the same, as has been the case for the past kazillion years for CSK. Batting depth! One thing that has become synonymous with Dhoni and the teams he has led over the years is the batting depth. Almost every other batter can bowl, and almost every other bowler can bat for them. That has been Mahi’s USP. Their top and middle orders with the likes of Devon Conway, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Ambati Rayudu and Ravindra Jadeja, look solid. If the top and middle orders didn’t wreck enough carnage, the finishers and lower middle orders are a threat to be reckoned with, with the likes of Shivam Dubey, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dwaine Pretorius and Deepak Chahar.

Is there a disease for having too many left-handers in the eleven? If yes, CSK have been plagued with at least five left-handers in their predicted top eight. That’s a weakness that can be exploited by the opposition teams by bowling one side of the wicket with off-spinners. Or can very well be a strength in disguise given the number of leg-spinners each team has compared to the offies. If we remove Dwayne Bravo from CSK, the death bowling looks blank! The wide yorkers, the well-disguised slower deliveries, everything becomes a thing of the past, and CSK of all the teams should have reinforced their death bowling of all the team’s given Bravo was nearing the twilight of his career in 2022. With Jamieson out injured and Mukesh Choudhary looking doubtful, CSK are left with Dwaine Pretorius and Deepak Chahar, who are better suited with the new ball than deliver at the death. CSK would have hoped to dangle the carrot with Stokes as the death over specialist more like how KKR use Andre Russell, but with his limited bowling availability, that goes out of the stands for a walk on the Marina Beach.

IPL 2022, CSK vs RCB, Top Performances_ Maheesh Theekshana takes 4-33 against RCB, CSK beat RCB and registers first win _ Walking Wicket (Images ©BCCI_IPL)
Maheesh Theekshana to lead the spin attach for CSK (Images ©IPL/Twitter)

Mahi and the game of chess with the spinners

Give MSD a turning track and 11 pieces of wood; he would still go on and win the match by making the ball turn from these 11 sticks. Yes! MSD will be back at his den, the MA Chidambaram Stadium, after four long years, and if the recently concluded ODI series is any indication of what the pitches are going to be like, even Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devon Conway should start rolling their spinning arms to give further options to Dhoni, if he doesn’t have enough already in the bank!

That’s how MS plays: more and more bowling options, and he controls the game thereafter from behind the wicket. CSK have Maheesh Theekshana - the mystery bowler, Ravindra Jadeja, Moeen Ali and young talent Prashant Solanki in their squad. And the depth of CSK is such that all of the above can make it to the final playing eleven, and if the pitches turn, CSK would be the team to beat at the Chidambaram Stadium.

With the impact player rule, a strategic mind like Dhoni's would be even more crucial, and with the kind of bench strength MS has with the likes of Mitchell Santner, Sisanda Magala, Dwaine Pretorius and Matheesha Pathirana, one might only see Devon Conway as a batter and being swapped when CSK comes on to bowl, or someone like Maheesh Theekshana, who is an out and out bowler, being swapped by a Conway or a Pretorius.

On the positive side, the last time CSK finished at the 7th place, they went ahead and won the league the very next season! That’s a champion side for one and all, and the Yellow Brigade would be hoping for a copy-paste of the 2021 season if not for anyone but to give a perfect "probable" farewell to Mahendra Singh Dhoni! Well, chances are he might nonchalantly come to the post tournament conference and might once again say, "Definitely NOT!” And the whistles might sound not only in Chennai but echo all over India!

CSK’s Probable XI

Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devon Conway, Ben Stokes, Ambati Rayudu, Moeen Ali, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (C & WK), Shivam Dubey, Deepak Chahar, Mahesh Theekshana, Prashant Solanki

Possible Impact Players: Dwaine Pretorius, Sisanda Magala, Mitchell Santner, Ajay Mandal, Simarjeet Singh

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