That time of the year has arrived, when the whole of Chennai wears a festive yellow look. The time of the year when the Du Plessis’s and the Bravos become household names in this lovely city. The time of the year when the whole city whistles for their beloved Super Kings. We give you a guide on what to look out for from MS Dhoni’s men in this 7th season of the Indian Premier League.
Few might say that the Super Kings are very lucky to still be in the tournament; however, now that they’re here, it will be business as usual for them. Having made the knockout rounds in every season and the final in all but one of the seasons, the Super Kings remain strong favourites again. They have retained the core of the squad with MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin all gearing up to play in yellow again. Even though they lost Mike Hussey to Mumbai Indians in the auction, they have seemingly made up for that loss with the addition of Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum and Caribbean basher Dwayne Smith. The bowling attack is spin heavy with Ashwin and Jadeja being joined by the world’s number one T20 bowler in Samuel Badree.
The Super Kings have three foreign pacemen in John Hastings, Ben Hilfenhaus, and Matt Henry, but it is highly unlikely that any of them would get a game, at least in the UAE leg, as the pitches are expected to be spinner-friendly.
Three Men to watch out for:
- Brendon McCullum: Ever since his opening day heroics in 2008, McCullum has done very little of note in the IPL. This season, though, could well be the one where McCullum changes all of that. In an environment led by MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming that allows players to flourish, McCullum will be given the license to express himself. Given the depth of the CSK batting line-up, McCullum must be given the freedom to play his natural game, as it will help the team seize the initiative and dictate the game. Although he does not open the batting in international cricket anymore, McCullum is most likely to be used there given all of CSK’s middle order options.
- Baba Aparajith: The star of India’s successful 2012 Under-19 World Cup campaign, Aparajith has had a solid season of domestic cricket and will be raring to go in the IPL. In the absence of Subramaniam Badrinath, Aparajith is likely to play the role of the floater in the middle order, the “crisis-man” role that Badrinath essayed to perfection. Aparajith is a technically sound batsman, and that will stand him in good stead ahead of the big season ahead. This could well be Baba Aparajith’s season of reckoning, the season where he tells the national selectors that he is ready to stand up amongst the big boys.
- Ishwar Pandey: Pandey has been unlucky not to get a game for Team India in the recent tours to New Zealand and Bangladesh, but he will get his big opportunity in the IPL considering the dearth of Indian fast bowling talent at Dhoni’s disposal. Like Mohit Sharma last season, Pandey will hope that this is his turn to step up from the yellow of CSK to the blue of Team India.
Three big names likely to miss out on selection:
- Ashish Nehra: Nehra has had a fruitful year in domestic cricket, but his trysts with the IPL have not been so successful. Nehra has never looked comfortable bowling to batsmen who attack him, and, in this format of the game, that can be a huge liability. With Mohit and Ishwar also there, it is not looking good for Nehra at the moment.
- John Hastings: Hastings had an outstanding competition in the Big Bash League recently, but he is likely to miss out from the CSK playing eleven. That is solely because of the conditions that the IPL matches will be played in, though. The spinner-friendly conditions in the Emirates, Ranchi and Chennai means that CSK will probably rely on the guile of Samuel Badree than the speed of Hastings.
- Dwayne Smith: Smith is likely to miss out only because, on present form, McCullum and du Plessis score over him. Such is the depth of CSK’s batting that a batsman of the calibre of Smith will have to miss out.
Likely Playing 11: Faf du Plessis, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina, Baba Aparajith, MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Samuel Badree, Mohit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey.
Fantasy cricket tip: For all you fantasy cricket buffs, Badree could well be the option that could be your wildcard pick for this tournament and so too is Aparajith. At 900,000 (based on the official IPL fantasy game), Badree could give as many points as a Sunil Narine or a Mitchell Johnson, who come at a higher cost than him.
Signing off for now. I will be writing on the fortunes of the Super Kings right through the tournament.
Till next time,