Predicted Playing XI: Shane Watson*, Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis*, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (c&wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo*, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Piyush Chawla, Imran Tahir*.
Substitutes (by order of playing XI chances): Lungi Ngidi*, Murali Vijay, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sam Curran*, KM Asif, Mitchell Santner*, R Sai Kishore, Josh Hazlewood*, Karn Sharma, Narayan Jagadeesan, Monu Kumar.
Vulnerable Spots: Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Piyush Chawla, Shardul Thakur.
Faf du Plessis – In the absence of Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis is guaranteed to start the tournament, either as opener or at No.3. The likelihood of him lasting the entire season, however, depends on how well he starts, as the Super Kings will be tempted fill the batting slot with either Murali Vijay or Ruturaj Gaikwad and use the overseas slot for a bowler or a bowling allrounder.
Potential replacements for the spot: Murali Vijay, Ruturaj Gaikwad
Imran Tahir – Imran Tahir shouldn’t be in any of the T20 vulnerable spot discussions, given his recent form and how good he has been in the IPL. But the Super Kings’s stubborn pursuit of Piyush Chawla at the IPL 2020 auctions has raised doubts over their plans for the legspinner this season.
With Lungi Ngidi, one of cornerstones of their 2018 championship victory, coming back into the set-up, MS Dhoni could use him for the overseas specialist pace bowler slot and swap Piyush Chawla with Tahir.
Potential replacements for the spot: Lungi Ngidi, Sam Curran.
Shardul Thakur – Shardul Thakur is amongst the top 5 most expensive bowlers in the IPL since 2018 (min 50 overs bowled). With the Super Kings bringing in attractive overseas pace bowling options in Ngidi and Sam Curran into their set-up, they wouldn’t feel as inclined to stick with him as long as they did in the last couple of seasons.
In addition to it, the franchise also has the option of playing an Indian spinner in his slot.
Potential replacements for the spot: Sam Curran, Piyush Chawla.
Fantasy set-up influencer: Suresh Raina opting out of the season.
Even considering the possibility that the sharp dip in Raina’s returns last year could be the beginning of the end, the void created by him is going to be tricky to deal with for the Super Kings for the following reasons:
1. It takes away the only left-handed batting option that the team has in the top 6.
2. It could push either du Plessis or Ambati Rayudu down the order, thereby lessening their impact.
Lack of clarity over Dwayne Bravo’s fitness
Dwayne Bravo, managing what is reported to be a knee issue, was restricted from bowling in the final match of the CPL held earlier this month. If it is serious enough to rule him out of the first half of the IPL, the likes of Curran and Mitchell Santner come into the picture big time.
What’s the fantasy value against Chennai Super Kings?
Slower ball power-hitters: With the likes of Bravo, Deepak Chahar, Ngidi, Curran, and Thakur in their squad, the Super Kings specialize in slower ball variations at the death. Therefore, lower middle-order batsmen who are capable of powering them through present a lot of value when you are up against the MS Dhoni-led unit.
Fantasy Ranking Order
1. MS Dhoni – Since CSK’s reintroduction in the IPL, Dhoni has crossed the 400-run mark in both the attempts. That he had only managed to achieve it twice in his first 10 seasons shows being part of a struggling batting unit in 2018 and 2019 has a role to play in it.
Set to be a part of another such batting unit, the 39-year-old should get plenty of game time in the middle to have a rewarding season again. His wicket-keeping points only further improve his fantasy potential.
2. Ravindra Jadeja – Jadeja would normally not be this high up in any of the T20 fantasy ranking orders, given his strike-rate limitations and lack of versatility in bowling outside helpful decks. But there are a couple of factors that work in favour of him this year:
• The switch to UAE, where he would feel at home with his bowling style
• With Raina unavailable and Curran unlikely to start, he is the only left-hander in the batting order and hence could be used more.
3. Imran Tahir – Tahir is as reliable as they come, and would be even higher in the order if there isn’t the Chawla sword hanging over his spot.
4. Ngidi – Ngidi could be one of the season’s best differential picks if the Super Kings play him the full season. The South African pacer has lately become a slower ball specialist; while this may hurt his career in the long term, from a fantasy point of view, the approach improves his wicket-taking potential at the death.
5. Shane Watson – A younger Watson would be higher in the order. But considering he is 39 and isn’t really reliable on the fitness front, you will have to be a bit wary of what to expect from him.
6. Deepak Chahar – Leading wicket-taker for CSK in the last couple of years, the only concern with Chahar, who tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month, is how well he holds for the duration of the tournament. Although he has recovered from the virus and is back in training now, the long-term effects of the infection are unknown.
7. Kedar Jadhav – With Harbhajan Singh not being in the squad could result in Kedar Jadhav’s offspin being utilized a lot more than it has been at CSK in the last couple of years. The real key to unlocking his full fantasy potential, however, is him batting at No.4.
8. Faf du Plessis – Refer to the ‘Vulnerable spot – Faf du Plessis’ section of the article
9. Ambati Rayudu – Rayudu had a poor season last year, hasn’t really had any high-level game time since being dropped from the 2019 World Cup squad, and could be demoted down the batting order. There isn’t much to be gung-ho about him ahead of the season, but if he opens the innings and starts well, things could change big time.
10. Dwayne Bravo – Refer to the ‘Fantasy set-up influencer – Dwayne Bravo’ section of the article.
Season Picks - Bankers, steals, and differentials:
Top banker: Ravindra Jadeja
Top differential(s): Lungi Ngidi, Kedar Jadhav
Top steal(s): Sam Curran