Chennai: The most consistent team across all seasons of the IPL, Chennai Super Kings would look to put behind the off-field distractions and do what they are best at when they take on previous edition's bottom-placed Delhi Daredevils in their opening match of the Twent20 league on Thursday.
The Super Kings were hounded by the spot-fixing scandal, in which their Team Principal Gurunath Meiyappan was indicted by a Supreme Court-monitored probe committee last year. But the team, which has made the last four in each of the previous seven Indian Premier League seasons, including four straight final appearances and two titles, still managed to reach the second qualifier.
This edition is expected to be no different as they start afresh under the able leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming once again.
Such has been their might that three years without a title is being considered a trophy drought and they would look to bounce back and silence the critics. They have managed to retain the nucleus of the side and have invested in Irfan Pathan, Michael Hussey, Kyle Abott, Rahul Sharma.
Boosted by the presence of New Zealand's Brendon McCullum, who had a fabulous World Cup recently, and Dwayne Smith at the top of the order, CSK should not face any problem getting off a swift start.
The middle order too, looks all settled with the likes of Suresh Raina, Hussey, Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo in the ranks. In case, these big names fail to fire, CSK have all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin down the order to finish the job with the bat.
As far as their bowling is concerned, the presence of Jadeja and Ashwin in spin department is a big plus, while pace bowlers Kyle Abbott, new import Matt Henry from New Zealand and Mohit Sharma are capable seamers. Besides all-rounder Dwayne Bravo have shown variations of pace, furious hitting and swift fielding that has swung matches for CSK in the past.
The Daredevils, on the other hand, have once again gone for a complete overhaul of their side, but managed to bring in a few big names during the high-profile IPL auction. Showing a lot of belief in India discard Yuvraj Singh, 33, the Delhi outfit purchased him for a record Rs. 16 crore after intense bidding among four franchises.
The team, which finished at the bottom of the table in the last two seasons, would be banking heavily on Yuvraj to deliver with his all-round abilities.
Besides Yuvraj, they have also invested in a 36-year-old fast bowler Zaheer Khan, who is also desperate to make a comeback to the Indian national team one last time. Under the captaincy of Jean-Paul Duminy, the team would be preparing to turn its fortunes around in the 2015 season.
Wicketkeeper-batsmen Quinton de Kock of South Africa and Mayank Agarwal are a good opening option, followed by Duminy, Yuvraj, Kedar Jadhav, Albie Morkel in the middle order. Their batting also runs deep like CSK and it would be interesting to see how well these big names live up to their reputation.
In Yuvraj and star Sri Lankan all-rounder Angelo Mathews, the Daredevils will have the necessary X-factor. The Sri Lankan captain, however, will miss tomorrow's tie because of a ban on the Lankan players by the Tamil Nadu government.
On the bowling front, South Africa leg-spinner Imran Tahir would look to replicate his World Cup show, while India's consistent pacer Mohammad Shami will partner the highly experienced Zaheer in the pace department. They look a strong team on paper but it remains to be seen whether they better their 2012 show where they crashed out in the play-offs. They also had last-four finishes in 2008 and 2009.
Match starts at 8:00 pm IST.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (capt), Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohit Sharma, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, Faf Du Plessis, Matt Henry, Samuel Badree, Michael Hussey, Kyle Abbott, Andrew Tye, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Baba Aparajith, Ishwar Pandey, Mithun Manhas, Ronit More, Rahul Sharma, Ankush Bains, Irfan Pathan, Pratyush Singh, Eklavya Dwivedi.
Delhi Daredevils: JP Duminy (capt), Yuvraj Singh, Manoj Tiwary, Quinton De Kock, Imran Tahir, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Angelo Mathews, Gurinder Sandhu, Travis Head, Albie Morkel, Markus Stoinis, Kedar Jadhav, Mayank Agarwal, Mohammed Shami, Amit Mishra, Jaidev Unadkat, Zaheer Khan, Shahbaz Nadeem, Saurabh Tiwary, Jayant Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, CM Gautam, Srikar Bharat, KK Jiyas, Domnic Joseph.