2015 IPL preview: Consistency the key to Chennai Super Kings ongoing success
Before the 2015 Indian Premier League starts on April 8, The National will preview each of the eight teams. Next up, the Chennai Super Kings.
In a league as young as the IPL, how long without a title is a legitimate drought? For the most successful side in the league’s seven-year history, a fourth successive season without a title would be a drought.
That is the prospect facing Chennai this season, winners of two IPL titles, runners-up thrice and in third-place last year.
Only one other team - Kolkatta Knight Riders - has won multiple IPL titles but they have hit far more lows than Chennai. It is Chennai’s consistency, in fact, that defines them - they have never finished lower than fourth. It is easy to conclude that with the kind of stars they have, and the financial backing of the world’s most powerful cricket administrator, they should be doing well every season.
But of all the IPL teams, existing and defunct, Chennai have worked hardest to maintain a sameness about their squad. Or they have, at least, worked hardest to maintain a core: MS Dhoni, Ravi Ashwin, Suresh Raina, Ravinder Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo and the returning Michael Hussey are all associated with their franchise as few other players in the league. Throw in Stephen Fleming, now coach, once their player, and it is easy to see why they are always among the top sides.
Around these men, however, they have also built. They have constructed squads wisely but also extravagantly. Their batting remains outrageously strong, with Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith and Faff du Plessis complementing the core.
Their bowling has traditionally been iffier and last season in particular, their fast bowling was weak. Again, they have recruited wisely this season. Kyle Abbott and Matt Henry are not yet international superstars but they are exciting and effective bowlers to have.
The only problem is pressure. They need to win the title this year to maintain their status as the league’s best side, and to justify considerable investment. Lucky then they have, in MS Dhoni, the man best equipped to handle such heat as their captain.
The match winner - Brendon McCullum
As the creator of arguably the IPL’s greatest innings of all time, the league-launching 158 back in 2008, McCullum is always a format threat. But this season, after his World Cup exploits, may see another, even more explosive frontier.
Up and coming star - Matt Henry
Henry often gets overlooked when talk turns to New Zealand’s outstanding pace resources at the moment. He should not. He is quick and, as his series-defining performances in the ODIs against Pakistan in the UAE showed, clever enough to operate on unfriendly surfaces.
Five to watch
Faff du Plessis - He may not possess the range of strokes of AB de Villiers, or the power of David Miller, but du Plessis does not lose much by way of comparison with these two. Supremely classy with bat, he is an extra player in the field so outstanding is he.
Ravinder Jadeja - The aura around Jadeja has slipped a little over the last year, mostly on the back of some unconvincing Test performances. A poor World Cup, however, should be a wake-up call for the kind of all-rounder he is. Chennai should provide a familiar escape.
Suresh Raina - Could Raina be the greatest IPL batsman so far? He is definitely one of its best and a major reason behind their ongoing success. This season should be business as usual - more runs, more victories, more success.
Dwayne Bravo - He was a loss to the side last season after he dislocated a shoulder during the UAE leg. Since then he has also - controversially - lost his place in the West Indies set-up. This is the perfect opportunity to remind them what they are missing out on.
Kyle Abbott - Abbott should beef up Chennai’s pace resources. His misuse in the World Cup was probably one of the reasons they missed out ultimately. He brings a muscly pace and bounce that the franchise has often missed.
Coach - Stephen Fleming
Previous record - 2014 - Semi-final; 2013 - runner-up; 2012 - runner-up; 2011 - Winner; 2010 - Winner; 2009 - semi-final; 2008 - runner-up
The National’s verdict
If they do not win it, they will be disappointed and their reputation as the league’s biggest side will be dented slightly. But even if they do not, it is impossible to imagine them not making it to the qualifiers, or the final itself. With that batting line, anything less will be a disappointment.
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Updated: April 5, 2015 04:00 AM