After a ban of two years due to spot-fixing, two-time Indian Premier League (IPL) champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are set to make a comeback in the 11th edition of the cash-rich league, starting April 7. Under the captaincy of MS Dhoni, CSK have kept their core intact ahead of the fresh season with Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja in the centre of the power and former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming as head coach.
Having retained Dhoni, Raina and Jadeja well ahead of the IPL Auction, held in January, CSK tried to weave their squad around seasoned campaigners. Probably the most successful franchise in the IPL history with two titles and four runners-up tags, CSK have as many as 11 players aged 30-plus out of 25 in the squad for IPL 2018.
Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, South Africa's Imran Tahir, Australian all-rounder Shane Watson, and West Indies' star all-rounder Dwayne Bravo are among the old warhorses in the camp led by 36-year-old Dhoni.
From the young generation, CSK have seven uncapped players in KM Asif, N Jagadeesan, Kanishk Seth, Monu Singh, Dhruv Shorey, Kshitiz Sharma and Chaitanya Bishnoi.
Besides this, Team India allrounder Kedar Jadhav, opener Murali Vijay and middle-order batsman Ambati Rayudu count in CSK's formidable batting line-up. South Africa captain Faf Du Plessis and England wicketkeeper-batsman will add to their batting strength.
In the bowling department, England's Mark Wood and Lungisani Ngidi of South Africa will lead the pace attack that includes Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Asif and Monu.
Leg-spinner Karn Sharma, 30, may play a vital role in spin assault under the guidance of experienced Harbhajan and Tahir. Harbhajan has played 136 IPL matches but all for Mumbai Indians. He has 127 wickets under his name with a career-best spell of 5/18.
CSK will take on three-time title winners Mumbai Indians in the IPL 2018 opening match at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, on April 7.
Ahead of the fresh season, the yellow brigade faced a big blow when spinner Mitchell Santner was ruled out due to a knee injury. CSK had bought Santner for Rs 50 lakh at IPL Auction and now they can pick his replacement from the list of unsold players with a base price of Rs 50 lakh or less.
The Chennai-based franchise will take a decision on Santner's replacement soon with the consultation of skipper Dhoni and coach Fleming.
Chennai Super Kings Complete squad
MS Dhoni (C/wk), 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, KM Asif, N Jagadeesan, Kanishk Seth, Monu Singh, Dhruv Shorey, Kshitiz Sharma, Chaitanya Bishnoi