Here is an analysis on the strengths and weaknesses of Chennai Super Kings this IPL.
Stability and familiarity - CSK retained 23 of their players from last season - the most of all teams. This year they have a squad who are familiar and are comfortable with their roles in the team.
Versatility - Last season CSK demonstrated their versatility by winning the IPL despite being forced to move from their spin-friendly home stadium in Chepauk - which they had built their squad around - to a pace-friendly stadium in Pune. With an almost identical squad this strength will be maintained.
Spin-friendly venue - This season CSK are set to play their home matches in Chepauk - the IPL venue with the second highest average degrees of spin behind Eden Gardens. CSK’s squad is well set up to exploit this turn: three of their four highest ranked bowlers are all spinners - Imran Tahir (projected bowling impact +2.55), Mitchell Santner (+1.16) and Harbhajan Singh (+1.03) with Karn Sharma (+0.31) just behind Lungi Ngidi (+0.51)
Solid top order - CSK’s top order is solid but unspectacular with Shane Watson (+0.70), Suresh Raina (+0.55), Faf du Plessis (+0.30) and Ambati Rayudu (-0.22) more often than not providing solid starts. Recently du Plessis has shown some evolution to his game which could see him elevate his scoring rate and provide faster starts more regularly. Watson has been in terrific form in the last 12 months.
Lower order hitting - CSK’s lower order is a concern. Dwayne Bravo (projected batting impact -0.17), MS Dhoni (-0.19), Ravindra Jadeja (-0.99) and Sam Billings (-1.58) are all negative impact batsman. Last season Dhoni rolled back the years with the bat and he may need to do the same again if CSK are to capitalise on the top order platforms.
Pace bowling - The only pace bowler in CSK’s squad with a positive projected bowling impact was Ngidi (+0.51) and he has since been ruled out of the season with an injury. Ngidi’s absence is a huge blow to CSK. The rest of the pace attack is new signing Mohit (-0.06), Chahar (-0.27), Thakur (-0.70), Willey (-0.79) and Bravo (-0.79). Last season death overs bowling in particular was a major concern with CSK registering the second highest economy rate in the phase. This is a big season for Bravo who had the worst IPL season of his career last year.
Ageing squad - Last year the experience of CSK’s squad was seen as one of their strengths and in some situations it will add value. However, players decline with age and CSK’s squad has five players over the age of 35 and seven more older than 30. Whether they can continue to operate at their peak levels remains to be seen.
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