The 13th season of the Indian Premier League [IPL] will kickstart on Saturday, September 19, when the defending champions Mumbai Indians lock horns with the three-time winners Chennai Super Kings at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Chennai Super Kings have been hamstring with the absence of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh after the duo pulled out of the tournament due to personal reasons.
With the duo not available and rookie Ruturaj Gaikwad ruled out of the opening game due to Covid related complications, what exactly is the playing XI that CSK could field in Saturday’s game?
Here’s a look at Chennai Super Kings Predicted Playing XI for the first game against Mumbai Indians-
A bloodied and battered Shane Watson almost led the Chennai Super Kings to their fourth title victory last season. After enduring a lackluster season where he managed 398 runs at an average of 23.41, Watson turned it on when it mattered the most with a brilliant 80 in the finals.
That said, Chennai Super Kings will hope that the former Australian all-rounder to be a bit more consistent this time around and hopefully emulate his exploits of the 2018 season where he smashed 555 runs at an average of 39.64 and a blistering strike-rate of 154.59.
Faf du Plessis
Just like Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis chipped in when it mattered the most in the last edition of the IPL. Apart from scoring his IPL-career highest score of 96 against Kings XI Punjab, the former South African skipper scored a brilliant half-century in the playoffs against Delhi Capitals to help his side into yet another finals.
In the absence of Suresh Raina, there will be an added responsibility on Watson and Du Plessis to spearhead CSK’s batting unit and consistently provide them with good starts at the top of the order.
In the absence of Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu’s role as the No.3 batsman becomes even more important this IPL season. The former Indian batsman was the spearhead of Chennai Super Kings batting-unit two years ago when he smashed 602 runs at an average of 43 and a strike-rate of 149.75.
But Rayudu wasn’t able to emulate those performances in the last season, where he managed a mere 282 runs at an average of 23.5 and a strike-rate of 93.06. CSK will desperately hope that the Ambati Rayudu of 2018 and not 2019 turns up this season.
MS Dhoni [C&WK]
Apart from his leadership skills, MS Dhoni’s form with the bat was one of the major reasons behind the Chennai Super Kings making their way to the finals in the 2019 edition.
Dhoni displayed vintage form last year and often spearheaded his sides’ fledgling batting-unit to effect some mind-boggling run-chases. The charismatic skipper finished as the leading run-scorer- 416 runs at an average of 83 and a strike-rate of 134.62- in IPL 2019. Dhoni is coming off a long layoff. He hasn’t played competitive cricket since July 2019 and his form will be crucial to CSKs fortunes in IPL 2020.
Kedar Jadhav had an abysmal season last year where he managed a mere 282 runs in 17 matches at an average of 23.50 and a strike-rate of 93.06. With rookie Ruturaj Gaikwad waiting in the wings and MS Dhoni having been impressed with the youngster, the first few games will be pretty crucial for Jadhav and he will be hoping to give handy contributions to the side in the lower-middle-order.
Ravindra Jadeja could turn out to be the MVP for the Chennai Super Kings this year. With the pitches expected to aid spinners, Jadeja- with his nagging accuracy- will be a vital cog in CSK’s bowling-unit.
Also, the southpaw has come of age with the bat in the past 2 years. Can he emulate his batting exploits for CSK in IPL 2020?
As always DJ Bravo will be a vital cog of the CSK’s line-up in IPL 2020. The West Indian all-rounder is coming off a great CPL campaign where he scaled the Mount.500 wicket barrier in T20 cricket.
With the pitches in the UAE expected to be slow and sluggish, Bravo’s variations will come in handy, especially in the death overs. Add his power-hitting prowess to the fore, and he could once again turn out to be CSK’s MVP in IPL 2020.
Imran Tahir was the leading wicket-taker in IPL 2019. The vile leg-spinner is coming off a great season in the Caribbean Premier League and with the pitches expected to aid spin, he will once again be the vital cog in CSK’s outfit this year.
Deepak Chahar will once again spearhead the fast bowling department. Chahar is coming off a long layoff due to injury and it will be interesting to see if he is able to emulate his past exploits this season.
Piyush Chawla will be making his debut for the Chennai Super Kings this season. A veteran of IPL, Piyush Chawla was one of the cornerstones of Kolkata Knight Riders success over the years, and with Harbhajan Singh no longer available for IPL 2020, his role in the side has become even more crucial
Shardul Thakur did not have a particularly good season for the Chennai Super Kings last year as he managed just eight wickets in 10 games. With two back-t0-back T20 World Cups coming up, this will be an important season for Shardul Thakur to showcase his talent and assert his credentials for a spot in the national side.