One of the most successful franchises in the league, Chennai Super Kings managed to retain the services of their three icon players at the retention event. This time, they will be looking to go back to their trusted formula of spending big on all-rounders and pacers to make another invincible team.
Any franchise sport, or their teams for that matter, survive on individual tales of brilliance or a team show of grit and class. It is very difficult for any team to sustain long without catching the imagination of fans irrespective of all the gloss and glamour that surrounds it. And Chennai, unlike some of the counterparts in the Indian Premier League, understood this concept the best and over the eight seasons of the IPL that they had participated in, the Indian Cements-owned franchise built itself into an institution thanks to their larger foresight and the confidence in their core team.
However, the world has changed a lot since then. The larger-than-life character, MS Dhoni is now a pale shadow of his former illustrious self and the once undisputed leader of the Indian side has made way for Kohli to be the new heartthrob of the nation. Suresh Raina, IPL’s highest run-scorer and a World cup winner, is searching for his soul in the Indian cricket and Ravindra Jadeja, the one-time confidante of his skipper, has found himself out of the radar for the Indian limited-overs format, but as things stand the trio have been retained. However, the logic can wait for the moment and the CSK management will try to accumulate a core that will take them to the dazzling height in the league, once again.
Players retained: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, and Ravindra Jadeja
Auction budget: 47 Crores
What they need to eye at the auction
The franchise retained three players and left with a 47-crore purse and will have to utilize that intelligently to form the team altogether. For the RTM option, they have the many big options, but the reason Brendon McCullum scores over his former teammates, he is, even after three years of retirement from the international cricket, brash and can bruise bowling attacks like few other men. In the BBL so far, playing for Brisbane Heat, he has scored only 243 runs at a sub-par average of 27, but CSK can simply afford a misfiring batsman who can have the kind of impact the Kiwi talisman has when he comes off.
While it is expected that the former Kiwi skipper will surely go for above 6 crores, McCullum’s compatriot and one of the best T20 players of the generation, Colin Munro can actually be a better option considering his impact. Munro’s penchant for hitting sixes for fun is not a secret anymore and the Durban-born player was a brilliant asset for KKR in the past seasons of the league. While he might easily go above 7-8 crores, given New Zealand are not slated to play anything during the time of the IPL, it is a risk worth taking. On the other hand, Evin Lewis, the mercurial West Indian opener, and Chris Lynn may also give exactly the same services, but if consistency comes to play, no one is better than Munro.
Going by the dynamics of the T20 cricket, a little amount of lethargic batting in the middle-order can have a cascading effect
Even if the team go for three-four star players like the ones mentioned above, then they will still be left with an amount of more than 27 crores and can harbour hopes of securing the services of some impact players who can be easy buys in the market. CSK, at the same time, will also want to retain their core group of players and in such a situation, CSK also face the risk of over-inflation of player bids from the opposition, but as Dhoni made it clear, they will still try for Ashwin and Faf du Plessis. Du Plessis has the ability to shift gears and anchor an innings and he almost revived his career thanks to the CSK franchise. A serial run aggregator, du Plessis can hold the fort in one end and will not be a bad idea if he will be purchased by the returning team with a modest amount. Remember, IPL teams always try for flashiness over substance, but the South African skipper can be mighty effective through his textbook style.
Even though the team don't use their RTM card on Andrew Tye, they might try to buy him from the market. 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 16 wickets in six matches so far and if the CSK franchise run the risk of spending around 7 crores on him, they will be in good stead during the tournament.
English bowler Chris Woakes, New Zealand’s Trent Boult and Kerala bowler Basil Thampi can also be effective options to consider. Considering Boult's brilliant form and the perk that comes with a left-arm pacer, the MS Dhoni-led team can well go for him for an amount of around 6 crores. If the franchise will seek some local flavour in the line-up, they can well go for T Natarajan or Krishnamoorthy Vignesh, who have been the main fulcrum for the Tamil Nadu team in the domestic tournaments in the last two seasons. With Tamil Nadu bowling Coach Laxmipathy Balaji taking over as the new bowling coach of the franchise, expect a local
The team already have the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina and that's why, they might not spend on any big spinners and rather be interested in buying someone like Aditya Sarwate, who has picked 29 wickets at 16.65 and scored 330 runs at 47.14 in the Ranji Trophy or Akshay Wakhare, who secured 34 wickets at 21.76 with their base price. Karnataka all-rounder Krishnappa Gowtham can also be another option and he has also shown the ability to run through sides and be consistent. Vidarbha's Rajneesh Gurbani finished as the season's second highest wicket-taker (39 wickets at 17.12) but more importantly was the man of the match in all the three knockout games to help Vidarbha win their maiden Ranji title triumph.
Dhoni confirmed that the franchise will make an effort to sign Ravichandran Ashwin as well. The offspinner was part of CSK since 2009, before turning out for Rising Pune Supergiant in the two seasons (2016 and 2017) when the Chennai-based franchise was suspended. While the team can't apply their RTM - they have already retained their three capped Indian players - they can have him at the auction.
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 12 wickets in seven matches, including a fifer. This is a rational option available for the returning team.
Apart from the obvious duo, there were some fine all-around performers in the Ranji Trophy as well. Shreyas Gopal (383 runs at 76.60 and 23 wickets at 26.17), Parvez Rasool (327 runs at 29.72 and 28 wickets at 26.53) and Swapnil Singh (565 runs at 62.77 and 20 wickets at 25.50) played important roles for their sides in the tournament, but if a guy can edge everyone with sheer numbers, he is Jalaj Saxena. Not only the Kerala opener finished as the season's highest wicket-taker with 44 wickets at 17.11, but also managed to score 522 crucial runs at an average of 52.2. But the saddest part is, he has been giving this colossal performance over last four-five seasons but is yet to make his IPL debut.
All in all, Chennai will not have to scratch their head a lot, if they can hold on to their tried and trusted formula – keep the core. With “Fortress Chepauk” behind at any cost, a settled Chennai team will obviously be a force to be reckoned with provided they spend money intelligently on January 27 and 28 in Bengaluru.