"Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat" — This Latin phrase translates into "fortune favours the brave" and the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), a team known for its bravery on the field and bravado off it, will require a lot of fortune on its long-awaited return to the Indian Premier League (IPL).
After being suspended from the league in 2015 following charges of spot-fixing and betting against key team officials, the two-time champions are making their way back into a league where they have been the most consistent side across 10 years.
CSK, led by former India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, is the only IPL franchise to be captained by the same person (Suresh Raina captained in Dhoni's absence in a few matches) since the inaugural edition in 2008. Not just the captain, the team management also ensured the entire core of CSK wasn't tampered with in the first eight seasons.
Following their return from a two-year suspension, the first major challenge faced by CSK was the mega IPL auction earlier this year.
Apart from skipper Dhoni, the management also retained Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja, who were part of the squad from 2008 and 2012 respectively. In addition, CSK also used their right-to-match option to rope in the services of seasoned veterans Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo.
Loyalty is a word that is often used loosely in sporting parlance. But in the case of CSK, not only the management but also the fans have maintained a staunch sense of loyalty with the franchise, even during its absence from the thick of things after its much-publicised fall from grace.
However, letting bygones be bygones, the four-time runners-up will be looking forward to bury ghosts of their recent past and continue from where they left off in 2015, when they ended second-best in the final against Mumbai Indians.
In the 2018 auction, CSK started off on an assured foot, choosing an eclectic mix of expected and unexpected names. One of the biggest criticisms against the CSK was that they lack experienced young blood, and rely too heavily on the old guard.
But while the jibes at the squad's average age never seem to end, the team would be more interested to bask in the wealth of experience present in the squad.
CSK's batting will be its biggest strength: In players like Shane Watson, Raina, Murali Vijay, Ambati Rayudu and Dhoni, the CSK batting line-up has over 15,000-plus runs. The presence of 26-year-old English import Sam Billings adds extra zing to team that has clearly banked on experience over youth.
Ravichandran Ashwin, an integral cog of the famed CSK bowling line-up, is now the captain of Kings XI Punjab. While the Chennai-born off-spinner will be missed by the home crowd, CSK have found a worthy replacement in the form of Harbhajan Singh, who moves away from the Mumbai Indians franchise for the first time.
The spin department, also boasting of names like Jadeja, Imran Tahir and Karn Sharma, can flummox the best of opponents and will prove to be one of the most potent weapons in CSK's artillery.
However, Chennai will need its pace department to punch above its weight if it wants to create problems for opponents. Two-time purple cap winner Dwayne Bravo will lead an inexperienced trio of pace bowlers: Shardul Thakur, Lungisani Ngidi, Mark Wood. Though the team does have international names like Ngidi and Wood, both are IPL debutants and their inexperience could be a cause of worry for Dhoni.
But while "experienced" is the word that's most constantly attributed to the "new-look" CSK squad, the team also has nine players who will be making their tournament debuts. This uneven balance can cost Chennai in the long run unless the uncapped players prove to be diamonds in the rough.
CSK has always managed to discover young players with the potential to create an impact, and will hope the likes of Dhruv Shorey, the find of the 2017/18 Ranji Trophy season, and Deepak Chahar, the highest wicket taker in the 2018 Mushtaq Ali, will prove to be this year's uncut diamonds.
Chennai Super Kings kick-start their comeback trail in the 2018 IPL opener against three-time champions and old foes Mumbai Indians on 7 April at the Wankhede stadium.
Though IPL 11 is quite a long tournament (7 April-27 May), the Chennai outfit would hope to resume things with a bang. The Super Kings have a burgeoning set of problems but they also have a one-stop solution in the form of one of India's most successful captains, a person born 1,700 km away from Chennai but still considered to be a "son of the soil", a player with an excellent cricketing acumen and one of the most effective finishers in modern day cricket: MS Dhoni.
Squad: MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Karn Sharma, Shane Watson, Shardul Thakur, Ambati Rayudu, Murali Vijay, Harbhajan Singh, Faf Du Plessis, Mark Wood, Sam Billings, Imran Tahir, Deepak Chahar, Lungisani Ngidi, Asif KM, N Jagadeesan, Kanishk Seth, Monu Singh, Dhruv Shorey, Kshitiz Sharma, Chaitanya Bishnoi
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