Two-time Indian Premier League champions, Chennai Super Kings have been embroiled in a series of off-field controversies but if Suresh Raina is to be believed, the players will put all of that behind them as they prepare their assault on the seventh edition of the T20 tournament. (Virat Kohli talks up RCB's chances)
Former CSK team official Gurunath Meiyappan was accused of betting on his own team during last year's IPL and even served jail time while skipper MS Dhoni's name has also been dragged into the controversy that put a question-mark over IPL's credibility in 2013. (Rohit Sharma credits MI captaincy for turning new leaf)
Raina has been key to CSK's success over the last six years, having slammed 2802 runs from 99 games, the most in the history of the IPL. He took it upon himself to present a brave front for the five-time finalists. All of the bad press could not have been easy for the cricketers but Raina chose to deal with the issues with a straight bat.Â (Michael Hussey: Will CSK discard be MI pride)
"We are professionals and will not allow any pressure to affect our performance. The first five games can be extremely important in the IPL to build up a winning momentum and that's what we will focus on," Raina said, in an interview with Gulf News.
Chennai have traditionally been slow off the blocks in almost every season of the IPL and this time, with the dark shadow of the spot-fixing controversy looming large and a new-look squad, the challenges are bound to multiply.
However, Raina, a naturally aggressive batsman, brushed off the setbacks with the same positive intent. The 27-year-old southpaw was upbeat that his bosses could retain the core of the squad - MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Raina himself- and that they used their 'Right to Match' card to get Faf du Plessis back and roped in the dangerous Brendon McCullum.
"There are quite a few new members, but we have a very balanced outfit. The addition of Brendon McCullum has been a big plus, along with the likes of Faf Du Plessis, Dwayne Smith, myself and of course, the leadership of Dhoni," said Raina.
Chennai's strength over the years, has been their spin attack, led astutely by Ashwin, with Jadeja for company on the slow MA Chidambram pitches. This year, they also have the luxury of West Indian leg spinner Samuel Badree, who showed his prowess in the ICC World T20, picking up 11 wickets in five games.
Raina was pleased with the options at the team's disposal: "We also have a very economical leg spinner in Samuel Badree who will lend tremendous variety to our spin attack."
Chennai Super Kings begin their campaign against Kings XI Punjab on April 18 in Abu Dhabi and it will be a true test of the players' character because the team, whether they like it or not, will be under the scanner right through the tournament.