UPDATED: April 1, 2021 14:57 IST
Chennai Super Kings, one of the most popular teams in the Indian Premier League, endured their worst-ever season last year as form and consistency eluded MS Dhoni’s ageing side but the 3-time champions will be eager to bounce back with vengeance and put the smiles back on the faces of their loyal fans in IPL 2021.
CSK failed to reach the playoffs for the first in the history of the tournament, finishing 7th in the league stage just ahead of Rajasthan Royals last season. Their performance in 2020 caught even the non-CSK supporters by surprise as nothing worked for ‘Thala’ Dhoni and his yellow brigade in IPL 2020.
Something had to give, and tough decisions needed to be made as CSK’s think-tank did a hard introspection of their squad and the performances of their players.
CSK coach Stephen Fleming and captain Dhoni both said that the template needed to change. CSK for long had been the only team that rarely made any changes to their squad or playing combination even when things were not going in their way.
Dhoni never liked to tinker with the Indian team XI and he applied the same formula when leading CSK. He had the record to back up his theory – winning 3 IPL titles and 2 Champions League T20 trophies in 13 years.
But their tactics seem to have finally run out of steam as the ‘Dad’s Army’, which made a heroic comeback from suspension after 2 years by winning the 2018 edition, saw their veteran stars fail time and again in 2020.
THE NEW RECRUITS
The CSK team management had to make a few changes this year which they did, by bringing in 6 new players to their squad in the IPL 2021 auction.
They won the bids for Krishnappa Gowtham (Rs 9.25 crore), Moeen Ali (Rs 7 crore), Cheteshwar Pujara (Rs 50 lakh), Harishankar Reddy (Rs 20 lakh), Bhagath Varma (Rs 20 lakh) and Hari Nishanth (Rs 20 lakh) in the auction.
Moeen has come as a replacement for Shane Watson, who retired from all cricket after CSK’s exit from IPL 2020. Leg-spinner Gowtham was roped in to bolster their spin department while Pujara will bring his experience into play if he features in the playing XI.
The new recruits will join the core group which has had so much success for CSK in the past. But only time will tell if they can change the team’s fortune around when they take the field from April 10.
THE RETURN OF CHINNA THALA
Suresh Raina’s absence was a big blow for CSK in IPL 2020. The vice-captain had pulled out just days before the tournament due to personal reasons.
But ‘Chinna Thala’, as the CSK fans like to call Raina, will be back donning the yellow jersey once again. Raina, the second-highest run-scorer in the league, is a major cog in CSK’s wheel and has the ability to change the game single-handedly.
Raina has been training hard in Ghaziabad for his return and recently joined the squad in Mumbai ahead of their season-opener against Delhi Capitals. His return is surely going to be one of the most highly-anticipated moments in this year’s IPL.
CSK retained 18 players before this year’s auction which mainly consists of the core group of players who have been a part of the franchise for quite some time, along with a few young names like Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sam Curran and Shardul Thakur who have done well for them in the recent past.
The likes of Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, Imran Tahir and Deepak Chahar have been the backbone of their squad and will continue to essay the same role this year along with Raina, who holds the most important position in their batting lineup at No. 3.
CSK FULL SQUAD
MS Dhoni (c), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Robin Uthappa, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Dwayne Bravo, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir, Sam Curran, Karn Sharma, N. Jagdeesan, KM Asif, Sai Kishore, Lungi Ngidi, Mitchell Santner, Josh Hazlewood, Moeen Ali, K Gowtham, Cheteshwar Pujara, M Harisankar Reddy, K Bhagath Varma, C Hari Nishaanth.
CSK FULL SCHEDULE FOR IPL 2021
April 10 – Chennai Super Kings v Delhi Capitals, Mumbai, 7.30 pm
April 16 – Punjab Kings v Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai, 7.30 pm
April 19 – Chennai Super Kings vs Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai, 7.30 pm
April 21 – Kolkata Knight Riders vs Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai, 7.30 pm
April 25 – Chennai Super Kings vs Royal Challengers, Mumbai, 3.30 pm
April 28 – Chennai Super Kings vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Delhi, 7.30 pm
May 1 – Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings, Delhi, 7.30 pm
May 5 – Rajasthan Royals vs Chennai Super Kings, Delhi, 7.30 pm
May 7 – Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Chennai Super Kings, Delhi, 7.30 pm
May 9 – Chennai Super Kings vs Punjab Kings, Bangalore, 3.30 pm
May 12 – Chennai Super Kings vs Kolkata Knight Riders, Bangalore, 7.30 pm
May 16 – Chennai Super Kings vs Mumbai Indians, Bangalore, 7.30 pm
May 21 – Capitals vs Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata, 7.30 pm
May 23 – Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata, 7.30 pm