Chennai Superkings is undoubtedly the most successful franchise in the IPL. The side had achieved dizzying heights in the tournament that is yet to be matched in any T20 tournament across the globe. The reasons for CSK’s phenomenal success are plenty- team stability, maintenance of a core through the years, strong Indian bench, and a tactful selection of foreign players among many other reasons. Eight seasons and 132 matches later, we, at 22Yards, seek to create the CSK Dream XI comprising of the best players to have played for the franchise. And after serious number crunching, analysis and discussions (more like arguments), an ideal CSK Dream XI was formulated. We have stuck to the four overseas player policy and five plus one bowling arrangement to lay down standards and boundaries. So, go on and read ahead to dwell upon the nostalgia of a family that ruled the tournament

1. Murali Vijay- Opener | Right Hand Bat | 2009 – 2013 |

Murali Vijay and CSK have had a mutually gratifying experience. The opener from Tamil Nadu came into national prominence after putting in consistent performances in yellow. The player of the final in the 2011 edition was an integral part of the side in the 2010 Champions league T20 pilling on 294 runs. He scored 1600 runs including five half centuries and two centuries for CSK. Murali Vijay played an important role in providing a stable and reliable start to the innings, and this has been crucial to the side over the years, especially since the opening partner was a high flying attacking Aussie. Murali Vijay provided the much-needed anchor.

2. Matthew Hayden- Opener | Left Hand Bat | 2008-2010 | Overseas |

The high flying attacking opening partner of Murali Vijay, never have we been more excited for an Aussie in yellow hitting the ball out of sight. Hayden was one of the best buys of the inaugural IPL and is responsible for CSK’s fiery starts. The master of the Mongoose bat has baffled opposition bowling many a times with his aggressive gameplay. The Aussie opener amassed 572 runs in the 2009 edition winning him the orange cap. 1107 runs at an average of 36.9 and a strike rate of 137.52 is no mean feat to achieve, especially when T20 was still in its initial stage. Hayden should be credited with defining CSK’s approach to opening in T20 and perhaps world cricket itself. The likes of Gayle, Warner and McCullum exploiting the powerplay stemmed from this legend.

3. Suresh Raina- Left Hand Bat | Right Arm Off break | Vice-Captain | 2008 – 2015 |

Suresh Raina is perhaps the most vital element in the CSK franchise. Mr. IPL has been the most consistent player of the tournament and has featured in every single match for CSK. With 3699 runs from 128 innings, the deputy to MS Dhoni has put in great performances with the bat including a fine century against Kings XI Punjab in 2013 and a blistering 25 ball 87 against the same opposition in 2014. He is also a handy off spinner with 23 wickets to his name. Suresh Raina is among the first patrons of athletic fielding in India and is responsible for setting standards for fielding with 74 catches. He has played with a certain maturity that has been his greatest asset. He has created a brand, one which is loved and respected by the vast majority of fans in the world today with no haters, a virtue that was last witnessed in Dravid. Raina is indeed CSK’s most valuable asset and as CSK enters into the eleventh edition of the tournament, all eyes will be on this champion, this time in yellow.

4. Michael Hussey- Left Hand Bat | 2008- 2015 | Overseas |

Mr. Cricket has been a fabulous player for CSK and was exceptional in 2013 when he scored 733 runs to win the orange cap. Hussey had a great run with the franchise during its best years when it won the IPL in 2010 and 2011 and the 2010 Champions League tournament. Hussey has piled on 1762 runs for CSK from 50 innings. He donned multiple roles for CSK as he proved to be quite a floater in the batting order. Alongside MS Dhoni and Raina, Hussey was CSK’s Senior Campaigner for a long time. Michael Hussey trumps many other foreign contenders for his long association with the side and the X factor that fans reminiscence about CSK’s prime.

5. Albie Morkel- Left Handed Bat | Right Arm Fast Medium | 2010-2013 |Overseas|

The South African all rounder has indeed been a sensation for CSK. An aggressive batsman who took on the opposition ranks late into the innings and a handy pace bowler, the elder of the Morkel brothers was instrumental in CSK’s success over the years. Albie Morkel was the leading wicket taker for CSK until Dwayne Bravo went past and perhaps also occupied his position in the lineup. His crowning moment was ideally in 2012 when he smashed 28 runs of Virat Kohli’s solitary over, taking his side home in one of the most dramatic finishes of all time. In all, he has accumulated 827 runs for CSK at a strike rate well in excess of 140 and has 76 wickets to show in CSK Yellow. Morkel makes it to the list at 5 for his aggressive batting, considering the top 4 in their prime form would not leave a lot of overs and also considering the batting strength to follow.

6. MS Dhoni- Wicket Keeper | Captain | Right Hand Bat | 2008 – 2015 … and beyond |

MS Dhoni and Chennai have an extremely deep-rooted connection, almost as if it was his home. Captain Cool is undoubtedly the most successful skipper in the IPL. The Wicket Keeper Batsman has brought about dramatic turnarounds in matches with his freakish batting. MS Dhoni has been phenomenal behind the stumps as well with 102 dismissals. With 2987 runs from 126 innings along with 15 half centuries, the skipper has been instrumental for the side. His cool and composed demeanor and level headed captaincy has won him accolades and praise from all around the globe. The franchise and fans owe most of the success, if not all of it, to this aggressive and yet cool skipper. With the franchise vowing to get back the skipper for the 2018 edition, the fans wait anxiously for this legend to take to the welcoming grounds of Chepauk once again, in the bright yellow that our eyes are accustomed to seeing him in.

7. Dwayne Bravo- Right Arm Medium Pace | Right Hand Bat | 2011-2015 | Overseas |

Dwayne Bravo completes the overseas player quota of this side and is CSK’s first global T20 brand purchase. Bravo migrated to CSK from the Mumbai set up and has been on fire ever since. He is the first player in the IPL to pick up 100 wickets and score 1000 runs making him the most effective all rounder in the tournament. Dwayne Bravo picked up 105 wickets from 91 innings. Bravo was unstoppable in 2012 when he scored 371 runs and picked up 15 wickets. He has 79 scalps to his name for CSK. He was the purple cap winner in 2013 and 2015, and is the only player to have won it twice. Bravo’s athletic fielding and high-spirited energy made him a CSK hero and his West Indian Captaincy experiences also contributed to the side.

8. Ravindra Jadeja- Left Arm Orthodox | Left Hand Bat | 2012-2015 |

‘Sir’ Ravindra Jadeja and his lightening quick overs have been contributory to the side and along with R Ashwin, has gone onto become one half of CSK’s and later India’s spin twins. The wily bowler has accounted for 55 wickets and is responsible for a lot more as he piles on the pressure for Ashwin to strike. Jadeja was a consistent partnership breaker. He is an athletic fielder and is amongst the best going around in world cricket currently. Jadeja is also an aggressive batsman and alongside Bravo and Ashwin, constituted a very strong lower order. Ravindra Jadeja down the order allowed Dhoni to include another specialist into the side. Jadeja has been contributing to the side in more than one way, be it batting, bowling or fielding. He also contributes indirectly by mounting pressure, breaking partnerships and solid batting even at the lower order, all of which can be decisive to victory. Perhaps Jadeja is among the lesser appreciated or underrated heroes in a side that boasted only heroes.

9. R. Ashwin- Right Arm Off Spin | Right Hand Bat | 2009-2015 |

The Chennai lad from West Mambalam had all eyes on him when he burst out with his bag of tricks that included the ‘Sudokku Ball’. Ravichandran Ashwin is the side’s premiere attack bowler with 90 wickets to show in CSK yellow. He was also very economical with a rate hovering around 6.5 an over. Ashwin was a calculative and tactful bowler which fit right into Dhoni’s scheme of affairs. Right from opening the bowling to bowling the death overs, the two have redefined the conventional role of a spinner. Ashwin was also a handy batsmen who could sustain or support as required. For this homeboy, playing in CSK has been a rewarding experience, as has been for the fans who watched his rise through the ranks.

10. Mohit Sharma- Right Arm Medium | 2013- 2015 |

Mohit Sharma is among the best finds by the CSK franchise. After being shortlisted by bowling Coach Andy Bichel, Mohit went onto pick up 20 wickets at an economy of 6.43 in his debut season of 2013. He went onto become the leading wicket taker of the 2014 edition with 23 wickets to his name. In all, he has scalped 57 wickets for CSK and has been effective as a new ball opening bowler with tight lines and nagging accuracy. Mohit Sharma has also appeared for India and been an effective bowler for the side. With Ashwin, Bravo and Jadeja forming the core of the bowling attack, Mohit Sharma was also slowly earning his place amongst their ranks before the CSK ban was imposed and he found himself in the Kings Eleven set up.

11. Lakshmipathy Balaji- Right Arm Fast Medium | 2008-2010 |

Filling in the last spot of this CSK Dream XI is a home opening bowler in Lakshmipathy Balaji. L Balaji has had good success with CSK. His journey with CSK started in the inaugural edition of the IPL, picking up 11 wickets which also included a hat trick against Kings XI, the first of IPL and also bagged a five-fer. He has, in all, achieved 31 wickets for the CSK franchise and was the premiere opening bowler for the side. With Bravo and Albie Morkel as pace options and Ashwin and Jadeja in the middle alongside Mohit Sharma to share the new ball, he completes the bowling charge of CSK Dream XI.

12. Subramaniam Badrinath- Right Hand Bat | 2008-2013 | Twelfth Man |

Agreed that there were several legends that could have walked into the eleven and did not. So, it’s only fair one of them be the Twelfth Man. But while deciding the best players for CSK, it’s only fair we choose the Twelfth Man to be someone who has been CSK’s best Twelfth Man over the years. And in that spirit, another home player earns his ticket to this side. Having featured for CSK regularly, the Tamil Nadu veteran added to the strong bench of the CSK franchise. He grabbed all the opportunities he got and scored. With 1441 runs from 67 innings and eleven half centuries, Badrinath has indeed been crucial to CSK’s success over the years.

The side was formulated trying to mimic the kind of style Dhoni had deployed over the years. With 6 bowlers and a part time spinner, Dhoni has full power to unleash his wizardry and yet, with genuine batting options all the way into No.9, CSK is sure to put up a fight until the last ball is bowled.

The ideal CSK Dream XI is not an easy task. While few choices were rather obvious and unanimous; few other positions in the side had to be arrived at after a lot of consideration. While sometimes numbers trump emotions, we just could not crunch numbers with players like Morkel who earned his place in the side (apologies Du Plessis and McCullum fans). Indeed, this was a gratifying experience and as I went through my fan boy moments in deciding the eleven, I relived my journey of memories of a franchise that had been simply fabulous across the years.
So what is your ideal XI? The best part of this exercise is that there is no golden standard- Jakati over Jadeja? Nehra or Balaji? Feel free to let me know.
Ramkumar Nair
Senior Executive
Cricaddict and Foodie


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