Even as the helicopter shot soared, the protagonist in the middle took flight at Chepauk. Like the blades of the flying machine, the stroke encapsulated power, speed and a distinctive sense of rhythm.
The strength of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s dexterous wrists, the velocity of his bludgeoning bat, and the sight of the gravity-defying ball gaining height created a cricketing beat of vibrancy and inventiveness.
The crowd held its breath and then erupted. The stands were a blaze of colour.
Skipper Dhoni will be in the thick of things again as Chennai Super Kings (CSK) begins yet another quest in IPL-VI. His versatile unit will once again feature among the top contenders.
CSK, without question, is the most successful franchise in the IPL. In the five editions of the IPL, the side from Chennai has triumphed on two occasions, reached the summit clash twice and made it to the semifinal once.
It is also the only team to have won the Champions League away from the subcontinent. CSK emerged victorious in South Africa in 2010. This is an outfit with depth and options.
The CSK, though, will be without the dynamic Faf du Plessis.
The top-order batsman will miss the league phase owing to fitness concerns. This suggests the side would open with the in-form Murali Vijay and the left-handed Michael Hussey, the one batsman Australia missed the most during its disastrous Test campaign in India.
CSK has the batting might with the strokeful and often game-changing Suresh Raina blending with S. Badrinath’s solidity and the long-distance hitting of pace-bowling all-rounders Albie Morkel and Dwayne Bravo.
And in Dhoni, the Chennai side possesses one of the deadliest finishers in the abbreviated form of the game.
This side is a batting powerhouse.
CSK also has two impact spinners in R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja; this off-spin-left-arm spin pair hounded the hapless Aussies in the Test series and can prove a handful in the shortest form of the game as well.
In the pace bowling department, CSK will miss the consistency and precision of paceman Nuwan Kulasekara for all its eight matches at home; the Sri Lankan bowled usefully last season as his economy rate of 6.71 suggests.
CSK will also not be able to utilise the services of the 19-year-old Akila Dananjaya. The off-spinner, according to many, is the finest young spinner in Sri Lanka.
With Doug Bollinger gone, CSK will now look up to the left-arm pace and incision of Dirk Nannes for breakthroughs; the Aussie mixes his short-pitched stuff capably with yorkers. South African all-rounder Chris Morris, a hard-hitting bat and a lively right-arm paceman, is another exciting signing by the franchise. CSK will also seek swift strikes from Ben Hilfenhaus’ swing.
The quality of its domestic pace bowling has come in for criticism on occasions and CSK, this season, has roped in pacemen Ankit Rajpoot, Imitiaz Ahmed and Ronit More. The lanky Rajpoot, in particular, is a promising bowler.
S. Anirudha, Baba Aparajith and Vijay Shankar are local players — an integral part of a winning franchise — with possibilities. CSK is all set to fly again.