IPL 2018 | Dhoni, Raina or Ashwin? Who will Chennai Super Kings retain ahead of mega auction?

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IPL 2018 | Dhoni, Raina or Ashwin? Who will Chennai Super Kings retain ahead of mega auction?

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Bastab K Parida


Love them or hate them. Fall for Dhoni's sixers, or call them match-fixers. But, you cannot deny the fact that CSK has been the lifeline of the IPL. In the eight seasons they participated in, they reached 8 playoffs, 4 finals, winning 2 titles - the one constant in the ever-altering IPL landscape.

In a landmark judgment in July 2015, the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha panel had suspended the owners of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals for a period of two years in connection to the betting and spot-fixing scandals in the 2013 IPL. Consequently, the two franchises couldn’t take part in the next two editions and this year, they returned to the fold once again to replace Rising Pune Supergiant and Gujarat Lions

While the plan initially was that the teams would enter the mega-auction with a clean slate, the idea suffered the opposition from the franchises because that might have affected their brand value and fan base. As a result of it, the IPL Governing Council and the Committee of Administrators, after a meeting in New Delhi on December 6, decided that the franchises can hold on up to five players (three retentions and two RTM cards or vice versa) from their previous squads for the 2018 IPL season and beyond. Chennai and Rajasthan, however, can retain players or use their RTM options for players who played for the two respective franchises in the 2015 edition of the tournament, and who were part of Rising Pune Supergiant and Gujarat Lions in the last season of the league.

Under the inspiring leadership of MS Dhoni, Chennai had built a team of superstars thanks to some great foresight and scouting in auctions and rules that aided teams with deeper pockets such as retentions with no clear-cut purse deductions. Now, the team will have a chance to bring back some of their superstars to don the blazing yellow once again and they have the options of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Andrew Tye, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, Faf du Plessis, and Irfan Pathan.

Who they should retain:

MS Dhoni:

Who can be the first man than the person who came to call the Chepauk his home in the winter of 2008 when Richard Madley struck the hammer for the first time in IPL history. MS Dhoni symbolized himself as the undisputed icon among the Chennai fans with his grace and sheer non-chalantness. Tamil Nadu also repaid him with their love and he was adopted overnight as the son of the soil. 'Thala', as he would be called, evoked a level of fanaticism and that offers the franchise a big marketable name to bank on. Despite the 36-year-old stepping down from India’s limited-overs captaincy role in January 2017, he has still been a huge brand among his fans and can again take the franchise to the position where they had been two years ago. Although his prowess with the bat has fairly dwindled, brand value and a marketing face has always been team’s motto in the league-based cricket and they will never miss this chance.


Suresh Raina:

Alongside Dhoni, Raina has been another face of the franchise, having been the highest run-scorer in the league. He has always offered a handy option for the No. 3 position and formed a lethal pair with Dhoni as the vice-captain of the team. His career may have failed to take off each time a short ball did, but he has been an absolute legend whenever it comes to IPL. His ability to split the field and discover gaps is a talent that was demonstrated in the entire decade that the IPL has existed, and notwithstanding his recent travails and lack of fitness, he is still an asset in the shortest version of the game. To go with that, pretty much like Dhoni, Chennai has come to love Raina in a big way and he provides a big marketing opportunity for the returning franchise. 

Ravindra Jadeja:

It is a tricky choice, but logic dictates, Chennai will go with Ravindra Jadeja, and not just because of his camaraderie with MS Dhoni. Although the left-arm spinner has found himself out of the national team for the limited-overs format of the game, he still has the ability to pick wickets at crucial junctures of the game. To go with that, the Saurashtra all-rounder can change the course of the game on its head through his power hitting in lower down the order. A bowler’s ability to bowl quicker through the air, more often than not, creates a sense of confusion in the minds of batsmen and Jadeja is a master of that act. While some might argue that local-boy Ravichandran Ashwin is still a better option than Jadeja, Ashwin has not played a T20 for over a year now and is not the same force with the bat in the white-ball cricket either. Jadeja is a brilliant fielder as well and one who follows the T20 cricket closely, can rest assured that how big an impact it plays during a game.

The alternate opinion for RTM:

If the franchise retains three players, they will be left with a 47 crore purse and will have to utilize that intelligently to form the team altogether. They will have the options of Andrew Tye, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo, and Faf du Plessis. While the emotion might be tilted towards Faf and McCullum, but rational opinion says Tye will be the best candidate for the same. Tye has been one of the very few modern-day cricketers who has the rare ability to bowl yorkers and mix it well with his stock delivery and the unconventional ones. After his exploits for Gujarat Lions in the last year's IPL, where he picked 12 wickets from six matches at an average of 11.47, he has been in a sublime form in the ongoing Big Bash League as well, having picked 13 wickets in four matches so far, and that might prompt the CSK think-tank to bring him back to the fold through RTM card. 

On the other hand, Dwayne Bravo is another option that the franchise needs to consider for the RTM option. When it comes to death bowling, Bravo’s slow swingers were an effective weapon for the Chennai-based franchise. Although the burly West Indian has been severely underperformed as a batsman lately, he wrecked havoc in the Big Bash League by picking eight wickets in three matches. This is a rational option available for the returning team. 

How logical is it?

It is very futile to argue with the logic of one of the most successful franchises in the league, for that fact that their almost every step worked in their favour. But it remains to be seen how much value can MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina add – clearly they are not the same players as they were – but IPL does work that way. Beyond the cricketing logic, the business of the IPL is mostly about brand value and impact and a team that has literally defined IPL in their own way will not let go of their biggest icon and the man who has been their face for 10 years. Fans will have to wait until Wednesday evening as the retention list will be announced.

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