CSK, with McCullum, Smith, Raina & Dhoni, Are Better Than Ever

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CSK, with McCullum, Smith, Raina & Dhoni, Are Better Than Ever
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In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra was a water serpent monster with many heads. Every time a head was cut off, it would grow two in its place. Fighting it only made it stronger. 

As the Chennai Super Kings recorded their sixth consecutive win of this IPL season, I thought of the Lernaean Hydra. If you fight the Chennai Super Kings, they only get stronger. 

Since their final defeat to the Mumbai Indians last season, CSK have lost their hugely successful opening partnership but, more pertinently, have had their entire team, management, franchise and brand questioned as they have been entrapped in the bitter, ugly IPL spot-fixing saga that enveloped the league last season. 

Of course, as the guilt of former Team Principal Gurunath Meiyyapan of forgery, fraud and cheating becomes increasingly apparent, the franchise are not without blame for the attention they have received. 

But what is most remarkable about the franchise and the team, is that while names of their players are coming up in the Indian Supreme Court, they appear totally unperturbed and have not only continued to perform well but have got even better. 

Last season Murali Vijay and Mike Hussey, as they had done for seasons before that, opened the batting and their role, as two classical batsmen, built a platform of sorts for the explosive middle-order dominated by Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni.

This year the Super Kings opted against retaining the opening pair and snapped up West Indian opener Dwayne Smith and New Zealand opener Brendon McCullum. The CSK hydra had a head chopped off and grew two back.

Chennai's strategy of building a platform at the top of the order with Vijay and Hussey has this year been replaced by the awesome power and attacking games of McCullum and Smith who have both been in scintillating form.

The even more impressive thing is that CSK's strategy of building a platform was working, and succeeding; in buying Smith and McCullum at auction and reinventing themselves at the top of the order, they took a risk. But the risk has paid off, and CSK are an even better team now than they were before. 

On Monday against the Delhi Daredevils, the openers fired again, and with clockwork predictability, Raina and Dhoni finished the job. Even as the match got tight near the end, a CSK victory felt inevitable. Indeed, Dhoni, cool and calm as ever, took them there with a four and a six.

Elsewhere they've also improved this season. Pace bowling has always been CSK's biggest problem, yet this year, almost inadvertently—despite not spending much money on it at auction—they've improved their stocks.

Ishwar Pandey and Mohit Sharma in particular have been superb, and they have complemented their awesome spin bowling headed by Ravi Ashwin and assisted by Ravi Jadeja and Samuel Badree. 

Perhaps the most telling sign of CSK's brilliance is that the injury to Dwayne Bravo that has ruled him out of the entire season has hardly been noticed. Bravo offered balance to the team with both bat and ball, but such has been the brilliance of them so far that his not playing has hardly been relevant. 

With six consecutive wins, CSK are now top of the table, and considering the team they have and the form they're in, it wouldn't be a surprise were that streak to continue for quite some time.

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