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

Execution has been the key to MS Dhoni’s spin-oriented tactics clicking, especially on Chennai’s home turf.

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 — have spin pitches to maximise home advantage and bank on experience. It has helped them become the most consistent franchise with five titles — level with Mumbai Indians — and reaching the knockouts in 12 of their 14 seasons.

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

With a good spin attack to exploit the playing surface and packing the side with good hitters against spin, they turn their home turf, MA Chidambaram Stadium, into a fortress. Last year, out of the eight games in Chennai, CSK won five, including the Qualifier. In 2024, one can expect similar domination at home. The pitches are expected to grip and turn, and CSK have the batters to do well.

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To add to their already balanced side, they have again done some smart picks at the auction, getting New Zealand’s Rachin Ravindra and Daryl Mitchell, who should both fit well into their spin plans. Most of their batters are touch players. Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ravindra and Ajinkya Rahane all thrive on timing shots than power-hitting.

Shivam Dube is their designated spin-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 batter Sameer Rizvi, also has a strong game against spin.

From last season’s winning side, 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 strong middle-order options.

In the lower order, the focus will be on Dhoni. Though CSK now mainly look at him to keep wicket and lead, Dhoni is still quite effective in the slog overs. Coming in at No.8-9, he played typically small, impact innings last year. In fewer than 60 balls, he got only 104 runs but at a strike rate of 182.46. Even if he is not batting well, CSK can always call upon an Impact Player.

Dhoni’s captaincy gives CSK the edge because he understands the grounds all over the country. He knows the angles to post the fielders, which can especially be challenging at Chepauk because of its bigger boundaries. Also, he uses the spinners very well to control the middle overs. He knows whom to use when. For example, Jadeja bowls only after the powerplay. Dhoni should be happy with his spin options. Besides Jadeja, there’s Moeen Ali, Maheesh Theekshana, Mitchell Santner and Ravindra.

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


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

Thakur and Chahar are both effective batters 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: target to win at least five out of seven home games and look to get three wins in the seven away games. Once they qualify for the play-offs, they know how to handle the pressure of big games.


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