File photo of the Chennai Super Kings team celebrating during one of the IPL6 matches. (BCCI Image)
Despite their loss to Mumbai Indians in the IPL6 final and failure to bag their third IPL title, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will enter the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) 2013 as one of the hot favourites.
The MS Dhoni-led side was the first Indian team to win the event in 2010. Of all the IPL teams, Chennai have been the most consistent side. Other than 2009, when CSK finished fourth in the IPL and subsequently failed to qualify for the CLT20 that year, CSK have had a phenomenal run in T20 cricket. Two-time IPL champions in 2010 and 2011, Chennai lifted the CLT20 trophy in 2010, other than finishing runners-up in the IPL in 2008, 2012, and 2013.
The biggest asset for the the India Cements-owned franchise lies in their captain cool, MS Dhoni, whose charisma and Midas touch has converted CSK into a champion outfit. Besides his ability to single-handedly change the course of a match with his batting, Dhoni's leadership skills - which now need to introduction after he overhauled Sourav Ganguly as India's best captain - have been exemplary, even though unconventional at times.
After a mini break from international cricket, Dhoni will be revitalised to resume when his side faces Titans at his hometown Ranchi on Sunday. It will be the first time Dhoni will play a T20 game in front of his home crowd.
Apart from Dhoni, CSK also have someone like Michael Hussey at the top, who provides his team the foundation it needs and at the same time can shift gears to score at a quick pace. After a brilliant show with the bat in IPL6, Hussey - who has already retired from international cricket - should be the batsman to look out for. In the middle order, CSK have big hitters like Suresh Raina and allrounders in the form of Albie Morkel, Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja. All of them can be match-winners on their day.
In the bowling department, Chennai have one of the best spin attacks in the tournament with the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja in prime form. In the latest ICC rankings released, Jadeja led the ODI bowlers' rankings. The left-arm spinner was also awarded with the 'Golden Ball' for picking up the most number of wickets in the ICC Champions Trophy.
The only area where CSK look slightly thin this season is their pace attack. Chris Morris is still raw, while Morkel and Bravo don't have the pace at the top of the innings. Bravo more than makes up for his slow pace with intelligent variation, but Morkel and Morris can be taken for runs. Paceman Mohit Sharma was one of the finds of IPL6 and will once again play a key role with the new ball. But in overall comparison to other teams in the fray this year, especially the IPL teams, Chennai's pace attacks looks the least menacing.
Chennai are in a tough group this year with Titans, Brisbane Heat and Trinidad and Tobago, who are all in good form. After the IPL controversy this year, in which the CSK Team Principal Gurunath Meiyappan was arrested on charges of betting, Chennai will be extra motivated to put all that behind with a sparkling show on the field.
Chennai Super Kings squad: MS Dhoni, Michael Hussey, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, S Badrinath, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Jason Holder, Imtiaz Ahmed, Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, Wriddhiman Saha, Mohit Sharma.