IPL 2020: MS Dhoni returns to cricket with a familiar Chennai Super Kings' core
On August 15, 2020, MS Dhoni, in his most unique style, brought an end to the suspense that lingered on, ever since the India-New Zealand semi-final in the 2019 World Cup. Dhoni announced his retirement and Suresh Raina followed suit. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) were all set to witness a pressure-free Dhoni and Raina this season. Raina pulling out came as a major blow before Harbhajan Singh followed suit.
Chennai's problems have been aplenty with players and support staff testing positive for COVID, causing a halt to their training. In times when it isn't very uncommon for 20-year-olds to be the shining stars of this format of the game, the average age of CSK's squad is 31, and they make it cool.
To put things in perspective, the youngest team in the tournament is Rajasthan Royals with an average age of 25.68 years. CSK's average age in IPL 2018 and 2019 were 34 and 29 respectively. While they lost the final against Mumbai Indians in 2019, they went on to win IPL 2018 after they returned from a two-year ban.
The biggest worry remains the unavailability of Raina, IPL's all-time second-highest run-getter. The fact that he has managed to amass 350 runs every season is a testimony to his consistency and impact. Raina is also a handy part-time bowling option. Additionally, Harbhajan Singh has also chosen not to travel with the team, which might force MSD to change his strategy on the slow UAE pitches.
CSK's spin department has worked wonders for them after their return to the fray in 2018. Imran Tahir, the leader of the attack, grabbed 26 scalps in IPL 2019 and took home the purple cap. Even in the absence of Harbhajan, MSD's options include Imran Tahir, Piyush Chawla and the young Tamil Nadu spinner R Sai Kishore.
With Suresh Raina out of the squad, the franchise would feel the urge to play both Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis at the top as the main problem they faced in IPL 2019 was slow starts. This fills up two of the four foreign slots available and with the selection of Dwyane Bravo and Imran Tahir being a no brainer. CSK would have to rely on their Indian pacers heavily.
Ruturaj Gaikwad, the second-highest run-scorer of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019-2020 and CSK's other top-order option, has still not been cleared to play after a COVID 19 infection.
IPL's move to UAE is a double-edged sword for the CSK outfit. While their spinners would pounce on the opportunity, the strike rates of their top fice against spin will also be a major concern for the team.