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Will Chepauk return help CSK spin it to win it?

Stokes' signing has added to their formidable list of allrounders, but death bowling could be a concern

Deivarayan Muthu

Where CSK finished last season

Ninth, just above bottom-placed Mumbai Indians on net run rate.

CSK squad for IPL 2023

MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Moeen Ali, Bhagath Varma, Deepak Chahar, Devon Conway (wk), Tushar Deshpande, Shivam Dube, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Ravindra Jadeja, Sisanda Magala, Ajay Mandal, Mukesh Choudhary, Matheesha Pathirana, Dwaine Pretorius, Ajinkya Rahane, Shaik Rasheed, Ambati Rayudu, Mitchell Santner, Subhranshu Senapati, Simarjeet Singh, Nishant Sindhu, Prashant Solanki, Ben Stokes, Maheesh Theekshana

Player availability - Theekshana, Pathirana arrive late

Maheesh Theekshana and Matheesha Pathirana will only be available to CSK after participating in a six-match white-ball series for Sri Lanka in New Zealand, which will end on April 8. This means they will miss CSK's first three games. Devon Conway and Mitchell Santner, though, have been released by NZC to be available for the entire IPL season.
South Africa fast bowler Sisanda Magala, who has been signed as a replacement for the injured Kyle Jamieson, might also arrive late, if he is picked to play the home ODIs against Netherlands on March 31 and April 2.
Left-arm seamer Mukesh Choudhary is a doubtful starter as he is recovering from a back injury at the NCA in Bengaluru.
There is a chance, too, that Super Kings could lose Ben Stokes' services if they go deep into the tournament. Stokes has said he will play England's one-off Test against Ireland at Lord's, which is scheduled to begin four days after the IPL final, and "give [himself] enough time to to get back and play that [Ireland] game".

What's new with CSK this year

They forked out INR 16.25 crore (USD 1.9 million approx.) for Stokes, their marquee signing at the auction. Haryana left-arm spin-bowling allrounder Nishant Sindhu and Chhattisgarh left-arm spin-bowling allrounder Ajay Mandal have been picked as back-ups for Ravindra Jadeja. Ajinkya Rahane and former Under-19 World Cup winner Shaik Rasheed are the new reserve batters.

The good - CSK return to Chepauk

Super Kings return to Chepauk for their first full season at home since 2019. They have almost every variety of spin - mystery spin, legspin, offspin, left-arm fingerspin - to exploit its slow and low pitches. Head coach Stephen Fleming has already spoken about their plans to recreate their old spin-to-win formula at home. They also have excellent batters who can counter spin like Ruturaj Gaikwad, Conway and Moeen Ali.
Having worked his way back from a serious knee injury, Jadeja has won games for India in both red-ball and white-ball cricket. In the two matches he has played at Chepauk over recent weeks, including one in the Ranji Trophy for Saurashtra, Jadeja found grip, turn and bounce. With Dhoni no longer the master finisher he once was, Jadeja will also have to do that job with the bat.
CSK have a surfeit of allrounders who lend depth to both batting and bowling, affording Dhoni to occupy the 'luxury spot'. If Santner starts the season, they could have batting depth all the way down to No.10.

The not-so-good - Who will bowl at the death?

With both Theekshana, who bowls at the death for Sri Lanka, and Magala, a specialist death bowler for South Africa and Sunrisers Eastern Cape, set to join the squad late, CSK might have to scramble for options at the back end of the innings. Especially when they go away from home.
Two of CSK's first-choice players - Gaikwad and Chahar - are coming back from injury. England will be watching Stokes' workloads carefully as well, given his knee problems over the winter, and the Ashes coming up in the summer. Robin Uthappa's retirement leaves a vacancy in their batting line-up but it is unclear who can fill it. Shivam Dube is an option, but he too is on the road back from injury and hasn't played a competitive game since November 2022. And then there's Rahane with a T20 strike rate of 119.
CSK could potentially have five left-handers in their top seven, which exposes the line-up to offspinners and other bowlers who take the ball away from them. Sunrisers Hyderabad, for example, could target CSK's left-hander-heavy line-up with Washington Sundar, Aiden Markram and Glenn Phillips.

Schedule insights

Super Kings will play five of their first eight matches away from home before they look to maximise points from their stretch of home games on black-soil pitches at Chepauk. The black-soil track that was used for the series decider between India and Australia offered sharp turn throughout the game.
CSK's afternoon fixture against arch-rivals Mumbai on May 6 at Chepauk will be the 1000th match in the IPL.

The big question

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo