IPL 2023 Preview - Chennai Super Kings
A couple of big name signings, the return from injury of some key players and you'd hope, an improvement in the form of the existing squad from what was a very disappointing 2022 season should see the 2021 champions competing higher up the table in 2023.
CSK 2022 Review
As the below stats show, CSK underperformed in almost ever area during the 2022 season but perhaps the most significant failures came in aspects of the game which have traditionally been their strong point.
Depth in batting and an ability to finish the innings has always been a key feature of the 2nd most successful franchise in IPL history but the fact that they achieved a relatively modest run rate of 10.2 during the final 5 overs of games shows their struggles in that regard.
Question marks persist over the abilities of MS Dhoni as a batsmen in his own right. Once considered the ultimate finisher in limited overs cricket, the now 41-year-old is finding it difficult to deliver those massive overs at the death quite as consistently as he did in his heyday.
Of course, the argument for maintaining Dhoni's position in the side has always been that his skills as a captain alone justify a place in the starting XI. It was therefore a very strange decision to replace him as skipper with Ravi Jadeja just prior to the start of the 2022 tournament and one that ultimately backfired spectacularly. Not only did the team's performance suffer but Jadeja's form fell off a cliff!
That drop in returns from Jadeja who was such a key player for CSK in 2021 and arguably the best all round cricketer in the game, goes a long way to explaining CSK's problems in 2022. It's also perhaps no surprise that the form of the team itself improved during the 2nd half of the season when Dhoni returned to lead the side and that (we believe) is where he will remain for 2023.
Key stats from IPL 2022 season and rank relative to all other franchises
Major ins and outs for IPL 2023
A potential weakness of the CSK squad for several seasons has been their age and it seems to have finally caught up with IPL stalwarts Dwyane Bravo and Robin Uthappa who will not feature at all in the 2023 season.
Foreign quicks Chris Jordan and Adam Milne also paid the price for some fairly expensive overs during the limited chances they got last season and were not retained.
The major story for CSK at the 2023 auction was their acquisition of Ben Stokes. As a player alone, he will help fill part of the hole that Bravo has left behind although you would imagine that he will bat significantly higher up the order than the West Indian did in recent years and his bowling is likely to be better suited to the middle period of the game as opposed to Bravo who specialised in the later overs.
Longer term, there are rumours that Stokes has been ear marked as the eventual successor to Dhoni. Certainly the England Test captain's stock is sky high in that regard following an incredible debut season in the role for his country. Availability would surely be the defining factor in regards CSK considering him for the position. Stokes has retired from ODI cricket but with the IPL bleeding into May/June there could well be clashes between earlier Test Matches and the later stages of the IPL in seasons to come.
CSK are well known for favouring a settled squad and so it's perhaps not surprising that despite their struggles last year they've not hit the reset button. The message from the coaching team seems very clear, that this group of players will be expected to perform at significantly higher levels than they achieved in IPL 2022.
Their remaining acquisitions at the auction then were fairly low key (they'd also blown most their budget on Stokes) and included veteran Ajinkya Rahane who will likely be back up for the top order and Kyle Jamieson who will compete for the final overseas spot in the team.
Predicted best XI
CSK's opening pair of Conway and Gaikwad found form in the later stages of IPL 2022 and Chennai will be hoping that they can carry that forward into 2023. For Gaikwad, the expectations last season were incredibly high considering his contribution to the championship winning side a year before. Conway meanwhile continues to be a very consistent run scorer in all forms of cricket. He topped CSK's averages in 2022 despite playing only 7 matches and will be hoping to be a regular from the off this year.
CSK's order thereafter is likely to be very fluid and dependant on the match situation and conditions. On paper you'd image that Stokes will bat at 3. The England red ball captain has a fairly average record in T20 cricket however he has always shown an appetite for the biggest stage and as such it's perhaps not a big surprise that the 2 centuries he has scored in this form of the game have both come in the IPL.
Over a third of Stokes' IPL runs have come over 4 innings including 2 memorable centuries. CSK will be hoping that he can provide greater consistency in IPL 2023
Thereafter veteran Ambati Rayudu is likely to be carded at 4. The 37-year-old played in 13 of CSK's 14 matches last year but added just 274 runs with a single half century to his name. His role however is crucial given the abundance of left-handers that otherwise dominate this CSK side. Expect to see him floating up and down the order accordingly as Flemming and Dhoni look to maintain a right hand/left hand combination at the crease as often as possible.
Shivam Dube, Moeen Ali and Ravi Jadeja make up those middle order left handers. Dube has shown glimpses of the talent that has seen multiple franchises bring him into their squads including last seasons unbeaten 95 vs RCB that came from just 46 balls and saw some absolute monster hitting. As alluded to above, CSK desperately need their stroke makers to fire in the later stages. Moeen Ali has at least hit a bit of form in the 50 over game for England while CSK will be hoping they get the 2021 Jadeja rather than what they saw last year when he was burdened with the captaincy.
Jadeja's returns with the bat were very poor compared to the 2021 season, he also took just 5 wickets and quite inexplicably for one of the best fielders in world cricket, dropped multiple catches in a season to forget
Then comes Dhoni who generally reserves himself for the very later stages these days and while he may not possess the finishing powers of years gone by, there are still few cricketers who can approach pressure situations in quite such a cool manner. His boundary off the last ball to seal victory for his side against Mumbai Indians last season was an indication of what he can still do at this level of the game.
Bowling wise, the return from injury of Deepak Chahar will give CSK significantly more firepower and options particularly in the powerplay. Mukesh Choudhary filled in as best as he could as the leader of Chennai's attack last year but has struggled for form with his domestic side Maharashtra since then. In as far as local fast bowling options are concerned, CSK also have Simarjeet Singh and Deshpande within their squad.
Mukesh Choudhary was the joint leading wicket taker in the powerplay in last season's IPL alongside Mohammed Shami
Jadeja and Moeen Ali will give Dhoni the kind of options and match-ups that he generally relishes and the fact that this IPL season is likely to be the first for 3 years that will see teams return to their home stadiums is a major boost to CSK's chances. The slow, turning pitches at the MA Chidambaram Stadium suit both CSK's batsmen who are adept at putting up a competitive total and their bowlers who marshalled by Dhoni can strangle the life out of the opposition.
The final spot in the side probably becomes a toss-up between a host of overseas players. Theekshana could offer a third spin option should those home surfaces favour such an approach while CSK may be tempted to play fellow Sri Lankan and Lasith Malinga look-a-like Matheesha Pathirana. Certainly Pathirana's x-factor and ability to bowl at the death might help to balance the side, while South African Dwyane Pretorius also filled that role at times last year for CSK with his wide yorker bowling at the end of the innings. Alternatively, CSK could unleash the pace and bounce of Kyle Jamieson, particularly when they travel to venues where the surface may benefit his style of bowling.
IPL 2023 Predictions
It's difficult to imagine CSK being quite as poor again in IPL 2023. We have to assume that there won't be any late drama regarding the captaincy this year and that a squad who are renowned for their stability will not enter the tournament in a state of flux.
If their top 3 can fire and lay a platform for a middle order that has both strength and depth then they should have sufficient runs this season to make them competitive. At the same time, they lack a significant amount of squad depth as far as the batting is concerned so the form of the best XI indicated above will be paramount.
Bowling wise, the return of Deepak Chahar and the likelihood that they will play half their matches back in Chennai is a major boost for a side that knows how to manipulate those familiar conditions. With the departure of Dwayne Bravo they'll be looking for someone else to take up the mantle of specialist death bowler. The squad possesses a few candidates but whether they can live up to the high standards set in previous campaigns remains to be seen.
While I think they will still be in the running for a playoff spot for longer than they were last year, I don't think this CSK side has quite got the firepower to make it to the final 4.
Predicted finish: 6th
All stats used in this blog are from my own database which is freely accessible at T20 head to head. Images are my own with the exception of player profiles and background images which are used under a creative commons license or otherwise royalty free
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I agree with your ranking where they will finish as they don't look that strong. Stokes is an improvement on Bravo and the squad just seems to be lacking x factor players.
Speaking of X factor, that's the new rule for IPL 2023 following on from something the Big Bash attempted a couple of years ago which allows sides to sub a player after 10 overs. The simplest use of it I’ve seen is to pick an out and out swing bowler, give him an over first up and if it swings you can consider keeping him on, if it doesn’t you sub him off for a spinner or change up bowler.
That sounds great or if your batting line up is collapsing you could an another allrounder in I suppose.
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