CSK look to go where no team has gone before


Without performing too much of a surgery on the squad from 2022, CSK equalled MI's trophy haul of five IPL titles last year.


It's been a strange cycle for the torch-bearers of success in IPL. It seemed like the wheels were coming off at the start in 2022, when CSK followed their fourth-title win (in 2021) with a ninth-place finish in an underwhelming season full of timidity and all-round tentativeness. But as a team representing a city that loves its cinema, it dramatically emerged from the doldrums and allowed a formulaic character arc to kick in. Without performing too much of a surgery on the squad, CSK equalled MI's trophy haul of five IPL titles last year.

In 2024, they have had to be more mindful of how the squad shapes up after having released their 16.25 Cr man Ben Stokes, and Ambati Rayudu opting to retire. Shardul Thakur's return brings experience to their bowling and further depth to the batting. The duo of Rachin Ravindra and Daryl Mitchell - one a left-hander and a handy allrounder, the other New Zealand's man for every crisis - are excellent upgrades at a time when Moeen Ali's impact is on the wane. Their big-money signing of the 20-year-old Sameer Rizvi has shades of the punt they took with an untested Ruturaj Gaikwad from five seasons ago. A year after winning their fifth title, CSK look even stronger, all bases well covered.

For two months last year, a wave of overwhelming emotion coursed through the length and breadth of India in anticipation of getting the last glimpse of MS Dhoni taking the field in yellow. But he comes back, with his hair let down like old times, to do it all over again. A record sixth title will be a perfect ending to his rich IPL legacy, should it really end this time.

Where they've finished in this cycle:2022: 9th, 2023: Champions

Key additions: Daryl Mitchell, Rachin Ravindra, Shardul Thakur, Sameer Rizvi, Mustafizur Rahman

Key subtractions: Ben Stokes, Ambati Rayudu (retired)

Full Squad: MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ajinkya Rahane, Deepak Chahar, Devon Conway, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, Maheesh Theekshana, Mitchell Santner, Matheesha Pathirana, Tushar Deshpande, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Mukesh Choudhary, Simarjeet Singh, Shaik Rasheed, Nishant Sindhu, Prashant Solanki, Ajay Mandal, Rachin Ravindra, Shardul Thakur, Daryl Mitchell, Sameer Rizvi, Avanish Rao Aravelly, Mustafizur Rahman

One stat from last year they'll want to remedy:

The breach to their home citadel.

CSK have often built squads equipped to maximise the conditions of Chepauk, but the unpredictability of it threw them off last season as they lost three home games. Though it didn't cost them in their title run eventually, they would want to course-correct this year and give themselves a cushion for any missteps on the road.

One to watch:

Sameer Rizvi.The 20-year-old UP batter comes with the reputation of being a spin hitter, and had CSK beating out competition in a bidding war to bag him for INR 8.40 Crore. The right-hander turned heads in the UP T20 League last September with the joint-most sixes (35) and a runs tally of 455 in 10 games - including two centuries - at a strike rate of 188.80. He showed his wares to an extent in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy too, where he hit 18 fours and 18 sixes in seven innings for a tally of 277 runs at a strike rate of 139.90. CSK will hope there's instant dividends in store for their huge investment in the form of Rizvi seamlessly replacing Rayudu and his impact in the middle-overs.

Injuries and availability:

CSK will be without last year's man of the final - Devon Conway until May as the New Zealander underwent a surgery on his injured left thumb. Fast bowler Matheesha Pathirana suffered a hamstring injury in the T20I series against Sri Lanka and could be out for a while.

Mustafizur Rahman, who had to be stretchered off during the final ODI against Sri Lanka due to cramps, seems to have recovered and should be CSK's death-overs alternative to the Sri Lankan.

Possible XI and potential Impact Player tactic:

Rachin Ravindra, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ajinkya Rahane, Sameer Rizvi, Daryl Mitchell, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (c), Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Maheesh Theekshana

CSK will continue to have a deep batting line-up, all the way until No.10. They could begin the season with three overseas picks in the XI and use a fourth - Mustafizur Rahman at the start and Matheesha Pathirana once he's available - as the bowling impact substitute. Sameer Rizvi could be their batting substitute.