Chennai Super Kings sealed their comeback after a two-year suspension with a third IPL title last year. They are, so far, the only team to successfully defend an IPL title – having accomplished the feat in 2011. Manoj Narayan assesses whether they will be able to repeat that feat once more in 2019.
Chennai Super Kings profile
Captain: MS Dhoni
Home ground: MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Owners: N Srinivasan (Chennai Super Kings Cricket LTD)
Past results: 2018: Champions; 2017: Suspended; 2016: Suspended; 2015: Finalists; 2014: play-offs (third place); 2013: Finalists; 2012: Finalists; 2011: Champions; 2010: Champions; 2009: SF (fourth place); 2008: Finalists
IPL titles: 3
Chennai might be one of the most successful sides in the tournament, but even then, they came back to the IPL after their two-year suspension last year, and found their motives questioned.
The Super Kings reassembled most of their core group, but that only spawned suggestions that the management had made an emotional decision to reunite a bunch of ageing players. It was a question that was repeatedly asked of them throughout the campaign, and at one point, their coach Stephen Fleming was visibly irked when the topic was brought up.
Should clarify-over the years identifying young talent and giving them a chance on the big stage has been a key part of CSk and the IPL. Watching young players take that chance and excel is one of the joys of the job.Sorry my comment in the press yesterday didn’t reflect that.
— Stephen Fleming (@SPFleming7) April 25, 2018
So, when they eventually triumph last year, it was vindication of Chennai’s philosophy – the age of the players, did not matter. The team had chemistry, they played to their strengths, and they had a messianic captain in MS Dhoni, who knew how to get them all to click. It was Chennai’s first IPL title since 2011, and perhaps, their most important one.
Needless to say, defending the trophy this year is going to be a whole other challenge. Opposition sides will be wiser of Chennai’s strengths and weaknesses, and as impressive as their triumph last year was, it’s not too hard to imagine the same questions, regarding the age and staying power of the squad, being posed at the first sign of trouble.
That is what Chennai have to live with though. There was a distinct sense that their win last year was propelled by something emotional and raw, perhaps a larger sense of purpose on their first season back after suspension. Can they still win it now that that driving force has been satiated?
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) March 11, 2019
Chennai had a relatively low-key time at the auction in December. That’s because they opted to retain most of the squad, and had a small budget remaining to spend on players – they went all-in for Mohit Sharma, securing his services for Rs 5 crore. The medium-pacer is another former player, having spent three seasons with Chennai before they were suspended. In that time, he picked up a combined 57 wickets in 47 matches, and Chennai will be hoping for more of the same from the Haryana pacer.
Key Indian player: MS Dhoni
This goes without saying. The team revolves around the former India captain, and something about Chennai elevates the 37-year-old as well. Dhoni’s experience will be crucial in helping Chennai squeeze out the most from this band of veterans. Experience and know-how was crucial to Chennai’s title charge in 2018, and Dhoni will bring copious amounts of both to lift the side once again. It helps that his own form with the bat has recently been on the up.
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) December 18, 2018
Key overseas player: Lungi Ngidi
At just 22 years of age, Ngidi is one of the few youngsters in the Chennai squad. But already, he’s proven his worth for them. Last year, he returned 11 wickets in just seven matches at a wonderous economy rate of 6. He has since gained plenty of international experience, and that will prove key as Dhoni turns to him to provide some early breakthroughs with his pace and bounce.
Chennai Super Kings squad
MS Dhoni (c), Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, M Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja, Sam Billings, Mitchell Santner, David Willey, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Karn Sharma, Dhruv Shorey, N Jagadeesan, Shardul Thakur, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Mohit Sharma, Ruturaj Gaikwad
Runners-up. They are the joint-most successful side in the tournament, with three titles in all, but is this the year they get their fourth? It’s always harder defending a title, and even Chennai are expected to fall short … but only just.