Chennai Super Kings have been the most consistent side in the Indian Premier League. In four seasons, they have been back-to-back champions for the last couple of years, runners-up in the first and semi-finalists in the second.
Given this record, you can almost be sure that they will be contenders for the top spot in the fifth season as well.
It's pretty likely actually. Chennai, one of the most well balanced squads in the IPL, have all the positive mental elements - something that is vital in a format where every other over can be crucial. The most important of these elements is the mentality to win, helped by their tremendous form over the last four years.
It would be wrong to credit only captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the success of the team but there's little doubt he was at the helm in an era where everything he touched turned to gold.
He extended Team India’s purple patch into Chennai’s winning run but what will be interesting to see is whether he can leave behind the national squad’s recent slump in form and bring the 'whistle podu' brigade a fair amount of cheer.
Chennai’s strengths are ample. Their batting line-up is deep and there are saviours who even come in at the bottom end of the team-sheet, contributing to a good run-chase and putting up a fight rather than capitulating in case the top order fails.
Murali Vijay, who scored a fantastic 95 in the last year's finals will most probably be partnered by Abhinav Mukund or Srikkanth Anirudha.
They are followed by Suresh Raina, S Badrinath, MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, who was one of the most wanted players in this year’s auction and finally went to CSK for $2 million. In 2010, he was the Royals’ highest run-scorer with 295 and conceded less than 6.5 runs per over.
There is no dearth of all-rounders at CSK and they possess the most coveted ones in the game. Michael Hussey, Dwayne Bravo, Albie Morkel and Fracois Du give them lots options in case Jadeja doesn’t fire on all cylinders.
Bravo, apart from being able to chip in with a few runs can also take wickets. The West Indian has been given responsibility with the new ball in his recent matches against Australia and he's expected to play a similar role is expected at CSK. His 110 wickets in T20 internationals is enough proof he's up to it.
Just in case that doesn’t happen, Ben Hilfenhaus, who was a revelation against India when the world champions were being hammered Down Under (27 wickets in four Tests) will be the perfect answer to any problems CSK face in the bowling department.
Doug Bollinger is also one of those who expects to be picked in the team, after becoming a regular wicket-taker in the shortest format of the game. His left arm pacers may come on to the bat a bit too easy but he can surprise with frequent yorkers and bouncers.
As for weaknesses, Chennai are a team whose platform lies on two Indians, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina, and both of them could be drained by the amount of cricket they've seen in the past 12 months. Non-stop cricket since the World Cup will eventually show on the field and a rotation policy is the only way one could see that being solved.
Fast bowling was a problem in earlier seasons but Hilfenhaus should be the answer to it, unless the move backfires and he doesn’t adjust to this format of the game.
The X-Factor for CSK will be Dwayne Bravo. It would be easy to pick MS Dhoni and his captaincy here, but Bravo can turn a match on it’s head when in form and an all-rounder usually does that. If he clicks, then CSK have a great chance of getting out of sticky situations and win matches.
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