Champions League 2013 September 20, 2013

Super Kings look to turn focus back on cricket


Chennai Super Kings finished runners-up in IPL 2013, having lost to Mumbai Indians in the final. They might not be the current IPL champions, but they have consistently been the team to beat in the competition. Five times in six IPLs they've made the final, they've won the title twice - in 2010 and 2011 - and took home the Champions League T20 title in 2010.

The team comes into this tournament with off-field controversy hanging heavily about them. News of one of their top officials Gurunath Meiyappan being arrested for alleged betting - which is illegal in India - broke a week before the IPL 2013 final, and he has been chargesheeted on the eve of the team's first CLT20 game*. Gurunath is the son-in-law of BCCI president N Srinivasan, and his arrest raked up the longstanding conflict of interest questions over the board president also being managing director of the company - India Cements - that owns Super Kings. MS Dhoni too had conflict of interest queries thrown his way, after it was learnt he temporarily owned shares in a player-management company that looked after the financial interests of his India and Super Kings' team-mates, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja.

On the upside, Super Kings' line-up is one of the strongest around in T20 cricket. They have ever-dependable batsmen in Michael Hussey and S Badrinath, big-hitters in Dwayne Bravo and Albie Morkel, and a combination of the two in Dhoni and Raina. Hussey and Bravo topped the batting and bowling charts in IPL 2013. In the spin department they have India's leading spinner across formats, R Ashwin, and the current No. 1 bowler in ODI cricket, Jadeja. Previously, pace bowling was a bit of a weakness, but they beefed up their attack in the lead-up to IPL 2013, signing lesser known but testing bowlers Chris Morris, Jason Holder and Mohit Sharma.

Super Kings will be keen on doing well for another reason. They have had by far the most settled squad in the IPL - Dhoni, Raina, Hussey, Ashwin, Morkel and Badrinath, among others, have all been with the franchise since its inception in 2008. In February, the squad - or most of it - is likely to be disbanded; as per the IPL regulations all players are supposed to go back into the auction in 2014. Given the possibility of this being the last tournament this bunch plays together, and the camaraderie that has built up over the seasons, they'll be eager to end on a high.

Super Kings will not play any matches at home, at Chepauk, but that's not to say they won't be treated like the home team: three of their four group games will be in Ranchi, Dhoni's hometown.

Key players
As they have been for years now, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and R Ashwin will be the cornerstones on which Super Kings' campaign is built. Dhoni's stats for Super Kings are solid - he has 2488 runs at a strike-rate nudging 140, and only two ducks in 97 innings for the team - but it is his temperament that is most prized. How many times has he "taken it late" and, despite it getting to a point when the chase seems beyond the team, delivered with an almost unnatural calm? Suresh Raina is the only player to have featured in every single one of his IPL franchise's games so far, scoring 3189 runs in 113 matches, while R Ashwin's economy rate of 6.53 is the best among all IPL bowlers who've sent down 150 overs or more for one franchise.

Surprise package
Given Super Kings' line-up has remained largely the same over the seasons, the team rarely fields untested performers. In IPL 2013, though, they did have two new faces: pace bowlers Mohit Sharma and Chris Morris. Both proved to be highly effective and featured regularly in the eleven, and have since gone on to represent their countries in ODIs. Mohit was even named Man of the Match on international debut.

It's hard to pinpoint on-field weaknesses in Super Kings' line-up. Their biggest challenge could be putting the off-field controversies that have recently plagued the franchise out of their minds. Following their deflated showing in the IPL 2013 final, coach Stephen Fleming said the team had "been through a lot and didn't respond well". They've had more than enough time for the initial shock of Gurunath's arrest to wear off, but the controversy still rages on. They can't afford to let it distract them once again.

*12.30GMT, September 21: The preview has been updated after Gurunath Meiyappan was chargesheeted

Nikita Bastian is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Murali on September 22, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    I wonder why controversies are created - through accusations, charge sheeting etc. - on the eve of CSK matches? Last time it was when CSK was about to play the final of IPL2013, and now when they are about to play their first match in CLT-T20.

  • vas on September 21, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    CLT20 is a club tournament. As in other club sports, it is the money that decides where a player plays. Fans should not bring club v country argument here. It is unfair on players. Sanga was forced to choose his home team. If players choose their home teams CSK will be without Hussey, bravo, Morris and Albie. That is the core of CSK out.

  • shashank on September 21, 2013, 10:21 GMT

    CSK have a very strong side as always and one of the contenders of the Trophy. What is most impressive about CSK management is their selection of players. In past they have selected players from other Domestic circuits. Faf du Plessis & George Bailey being prime example , both of those now captaining their national team. They have also groomed many Indian talented players, recent example is Mohit Sharma. Overall they have very good cricketing sense while picking players. All these hard works in building this team should not go to waste. Every team in IPL should retain 3-4 players otherwise IPL will devalue for sure. I think in CLT20 CSK may struggle initially because less match practice but somehow they will reach semifinals and possibly lift the trophy.

  • karthik on September 21, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    @Michael Reid .This Chennai side can easily win any tournament even without foreign players.We have enough domestic talent to bank upon .Moreover foreign teams give their players to Ipl sides only because they would get money

  • Tarun on September 21, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    Michael Reid, No team from any country is forced to give anyone their best players. It is up to the player to choose (eg Sangakara). This is franchise/club cricket, not an international fixture.

  • ESPN on September 21, 2013, 7:03 GMT

    It's easy having a great team when teams from other countries have to give you there best players.

  • vas on September 21, 2013, 6:20 GMT

    For the IPL7:

    1) no more new teams. Don't dilute the talent ( specially Indian) by adding new teams.

    2) retain at least 4 players if not more to keep fan loyalty and continuity.

    The auctioning players is a bizarre concept. Sometimes a certain player goes to astronomical sum just because the franchise is hell bent of acquiring the player. Ex Maxwell. There is a big Salary difference between Indian players and foreign players even tho ugh both are equally talented. Uncapped Indian players are paid such a low amount compared to capped Indians, they become targets to bookies.

    If the players are paid like the way the central contracts are paid there will be less resentment among players. Players can be categorised into groups according to their icc rankings and paid prefixed amounts and DRAFT PICK method can be used to select players. Test only players and retired players can be picked in the auction style. Something to get rid of my chest, peace.

  • Dummy4 on September 21, 2013, 6:19 GMT

    Somehow this team got yellow and super combination of players! Like the Steve Waugh Aus team! They rarely fail, they just want to prove their power again and again. They won many close games because they believe they can do and they do have the talent to do so.

    It's always a joy watching this team come out of trouble and win a game.

    I do not think any player or the fans keeping their administrators in mind at the moment, we all see how the players work hard on field to win a game. GO CSK, this title is yours win this in style!

  • Dummy4 on September 21, 2013, 5:50 GMT

    All the Best CSK. Hope in 2014 Dhoni will only lead CSK again and also till he plays cricket in his life. No bother whether they win the ipl or not, Dhoni will be always inspiration character to younger generation.

  • Senthil on September 21, 2013, 5:27 GMT

    Being able to retain players will be CSK's wish in the next auctions. But all the others will try and force a full disband, just for the morbid satisfaction of seeing CSK's core destroyed. This is political, to say the least, but this is exactly what all the foolish teams that chose badly the first two times around will try and enforce, through legislation, what they couldn't do through intelligence and management.

    That said, CSK's top management will be clever enough to bid as high as possible to win back everyone. They are not fools, and they won't be intimidated. The CSK story is one of the best stories in franchise cricket, and I'd hate to see that not continue.

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