One of the pre-tournament favourites, CSK will walk into IPL 2020 on the back of loads of issues, including missing Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh, but nothing bigger than their direful batting. On the other hand, they would be confident that the bowling pack will come to the party.
The Yellow Army was finally back to their familiar den, Chepauk, for the 2019 IPL where they fed off the energy from their 12th man to propel their way to second on the table. While they got off to a blazing start, with three wins-in-a-row, once they met Mumbai Indians, everything came crashing down, as they could add only six more wins while enduring a staggering five losses.
The biggest factor behind the five losses was their turbulent batting across the board. With CSK's top three contributing 45.57% of their runs, seventh-best in the league, it eventually culminated in worst-record for powerplay runs (37.85) and average scores (145.92) among the eight teams. But that was not all, they even suffered heavily in the first six overs, losing 1.71 wickets on average during the season which makes their decision to not replenish the position in the auction baffling.
It has reflected straight in terms of their best performer with the bat, MS Dhoni. CSK’s skipper scored 18% of the franchise’s runs last year, with 368 runs. Most of his runs have come towards the end of the innings, where the side has scored 44 runs on an average, finishing sixth-best in the league. Despite Dhoni's six-hitting ability, however, the franchise could only finish seventh in terms of sixes hit, with 23 off the 74 they hit coming out of Dhoni’s willow.
A key contributor to the franchise’s boundaries was none other than their second-best run-scorer Suresh Raina, who scored 359 runs. Even with his unwavering presence in the lineup, CSK could only score 55.4% of their runs in boundaries, ranking them eighth-best in the league which just showed the sluggish nature of the pitch at home. Although they will miss the southpaw, after his decision to pull out of the tournament, they have not yet made a decision to replace him for the season, which would only make their batting more brittle and suspectible.
At the same time, the dry grass at one end meets the rich and energetic young pasture at the other end, which is their bowling attack, standing out from the rest. CSK had the worst average total with the bat, yes, but they also prevented the other sides from posting good totals last season. CSK bowlers only leaked 143.71 runs per game last season, the best in the competition, nearly 35 runs less than the last-placed Kings XI Punjab.
Integral to that was their bowling in the powerplay and their new-ball specialist Deepak Chahar, who helped restrict the opposition to 48 runs on average, the sixth-best in the league, whilst picking up 1.78 wickets in the first six, the best in the league last year. Despite his staggering presence, Chahar was only second-best when it came to the wickets column, with Imran Tahir doing the damage in the middle overs, a phase where CSK were by far the best team in the league, conceding just 24 runs for every wicket they took.
Only 16.78 boundaries were leaked per innings, with Tahir picking up 26 wickets in total, despite being aged 40. The leggie will still continue his journey with the Super Kings and would walk into the tournament on the back of his scintillating showing in the CPL.
While it has been their spinners who did the bulk of reducing the scoring, with 52 wickets, their pace unit is not as bad as preconceived notions, having taken 44 wickets of their own, last season. Led by Dwayne Bravo and Shardul Thakur at the death, CSK have managed to concede just 35 runs on average, the best in the competition last year, alongside picking up 2.21 wickets, the fifth-best.
In a sincere effort, they have not only retained their bowling pack but also added Sam Curran from Punjab, where he ended up with 10 wickets, alongside Piyush Chawla, who, too, picked up ten of his own for KKR. The franchise most certainly will miss one of their willy veterans, Harbhajan Singh, but with the addition of Chawla, they can continue on its trusted principles in spin bowling in tailor-made conditions. And with Curran and Josh Hazlewood, the franchise has ensured that there are no holes in the bowling department.
Will CSK continue to uphold their legacy or will they crumble under the pressure for the first time in history?