Indian Premier League's most successful side Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will open its 2013 Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) campaign on Sunday when they take on last year's runners-up Titans at Ranchi, with the match marking MS Dhoni's first T20 outing in front of his home crowd but coming at the backdrop of police naming the franchise's tainted Team Principal Gurunath Meiyappan in the IPL chargesheet.
Meiyappan was on Saturday chargesheeted for his involvement in betting in the IPL, though no spot-fixing charges were levied against him. CSK will like to put that and what happened during IPL6 behind them, and do business on the field.
CSK are one of the most consistent teams of the IPL but the Titans from South Africa are considered strong contenders for the title. Both the teams finished runners-up in their respective domestic T20 leagues this season and will be hoping to get their campaign off to a winning start.
The biggest asset for the India Cements-owned franchise lies in their captain cool, MS Dhoni, whose charisma and Midas touch has converted CSK into a champion outfit. Playing his first T20 at home will be an added motivation for Dhoni to perform well at a personal level as well.
Apart from Dhoni, CSK have someone like Michael Hussey at the top of their batting order. Hussey invariably provides CSK the foundation they need and at the same time can shift gears to score at a quick pace. After a brilliant show with the bat in IPL6, Hussey - who has already retired from international cricket - should be the batsman to look out for.
In the middle order, CSK have big hitters like Suresh Raina and allrounders in the form of Albie Morkel, Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja. All of them can be match-winners on their day. And if there's a stutter at the top, S Badrinath can always be relied upon to steady the ship.
In the bowling department, Mohit Sharma will be one of the key members for Chennai. He had an excellent IPL campaign, which earned him an ODI cap in Zimbabwe, and CSK will hope he continues in the same form here as well. Chris Morris, though still raw, showed a lot of promise during the IPL. He and Mohit will have quality support in the form of Bravo and Morkel. Still CSK's pace attack looks a bit thin compared to other teams.
But CSK's spin department more than makes up for that with the likes of R Ashwin and Jadeja in prime form. In the latest ICC rankings released, Jadeja led the ODI bowlers' rankings. The left-arm spinner was also awarded with the 'Golden Ball' for picking up the most number of wickets in the ICC Champions Trophy.
For Titans, their captain Henry Davids will aim to build on his success of last season following a largely relaxing off-season. He is expected to be a central figure for the Titans this time around, especially due to the consistency he has shown over the last 24 months. But central to Titans' batting will undoubtedly be AB de Villers. His batting prowess, especially in limited-overs cricket, needs no introduction. Another middle order Titans' batsman who can be more than handful is Jacques Rudolph. The 32-year-old is in the same mold as CSK's Badrinath, taking time to settle but with ability to up the ante when required.
Morne Morkel and Marchant de Lange are expected to share the new ball for the visitors and the amount of pace they can generate can cause lots of trouble for the opposition batmen, but their success will depend on whether the Ranchi track is conducive to fast bowling. Offspinner Eden Links and Roelof van der Merwe will handle the spin department for the side. Links has a good economy rate and can be a key figure for them in the subcontinent conditions.
Overall both the teams look pretty balanced, but CSK will have an advantage over the Titans keeping the home conditions in mind and the quality of the spinners at their disposal.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Murali Vijay, 2 Michael Hussey, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 MS Dhoni (capt), 5 S Badrinath, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Albie Morkel, 9 Chris Morris, 10 R Ashwin, 11 Mohit Sharma
Titans: 1 Henry Davids (capt), 2 Farhaan Behardien, 3 AB de Villers, 4 Jacques Rudolph, 5 Heino Kuhn, 6 C de Villiers, 7 Roelof van der Merwe, 8 David Wiese, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Marchant de Lange, 11 Eden Links