IPL 2024: With MS Dhoni as captain, CSK’s game plan is still simple and successful | Cricket


Chennai Super Kings’ methods under MS Dhoni are quite simple, but their execution is so good that teams are still unable to break their game plans: having spinning pitches to maximize home advantage and banking on experience. This has helped them become the most consistent franchise with five titles – tied with Mumbai Indians – and reach the knockout stages in 12 of their 14 seasons.

Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni with teammates during IPL 2023 match (PTI)

With a good spin attack to exploit the playing surface and filling the team with good hitters against spin, they are transforming their home ground, the MA Chidambaram Stadium, into a fortress. Last year, out of the eight matches played in Chennai, CSK won five, including the qualifiers. In 2024, we can expect similar dominance at home. The pitches should grip and spin, and CSK have the batters to do well.

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To add to their already balanced side, they once again made some smart picks at auction, securing New Zealanders Rachin Ravindra and Daryl Mitchell, both of whom should fit well into their rotation plans. Most of their hitters are touch players. Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ravindra and Ajinkya Rahane all thrive on timed shots rather than power strikes.

Shivam Dube is their designated hitter. Mitchell was brilliant against spin in the ICC World Cup with a hundred against India in the semi-final. CSK’s big auction pick among domestic players, Uttar Pradesh middle-order hitter Sameer Rizvi also has a good game against spin.

From last season’s winning team, they will miss injured opener Devon Conway, while Ambati Rayudu has retired. In place of Conway, Ravindra is a ready-made option to open with Ruturaj. At No. 3, they have Rahane or Moeen Ali. Mitchell, Dube, Ravindra Jadeja and Rizvi are solid middle-order options.

In the lower order, the focus will be on Dhoni. Although CSK now looks at him primarily to keep wicket and lead, Dhoni is still quite effective in slog overs. Coming in at No. 8-9, he played generally small, impactful innings last year. In less than 60 balls, he scored only 104 runs but at a strike rate of 182.46. Even if he doesn’t bat well, CSK can still use an impact player.

Dhoni’s captaincy gives CSK the edge as he understands pitches across the country. He knows the angles to put defenders in, which can be especially difficult at Chepauk due to his greater limitations. Additionally, he uses spinners very well to control middle overs. He knows who to call on and when. For example, Jadeja plays only after the powerplay. Dhoni should be happy with his spin options. Besides Jadeja, there are Moeen Ali, Maheesh Theekshana, Mitchell Santner and Ravindra.

CSK has a predictable formula, but it works. They don’t even change the batting order much. But this time, it remains to be seen how Dhoni uses Mitchell. With the four foreign player rule in place, it will likely be a draw between Mustafizur Rahman and Mitchell.

RHYTHM ATTACK

CSK did great things with a very young pace attack last season, where Tushar Deshpande (CSK’s leading bowler with 21 scalps) and Matheesha Pathirana (19 wickets) had a good season. Jadeja took 20 wickets.

This year, CSK got back all-rounder Shardul Thakur. Deepak Chahar and Mustafizur are also experienced activists. Pathirana is sidelined with a hamstring injury, but left-arm pacer Mukesh Choudhary is back after missing last season due to injury.

Both Thakur and Chahar are effective hitters while Deshpande is also a handy player down the order, as his hundred for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy semi-final showed.

CSK’s strategy is simple: aim to win at least five of the seven matches at home and look for three wins in the seven away matches. Once qualified for the play-offs, they know how to handle the pressure of big matches.

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