Chennai, April 7: After bringing home the much-coveted World Cup, M S Dhoni is already lusting for another conquest as captain. Indeed, he has traded in his Indian blues for the yellow uniform of the IPL champions Chennai Super Kings and is confident that his new team will be able to retain the title.
The Super Kings, winners in 2010 along with the Champions League, have retained most of the players with the notable exception of the legendary off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan who was bought by Kochi Tuskers at the auction in January this year.
The IPL begins Friday with Chennai Super Kings hosting Kolkata Knight Riders. The match is scheduled to begin at 8 pm at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.
"The new team is quite good," observed Dhoni. "Like I always say, it's not about how good the team looks on paper, but it's what we do on the field that is very important.
"I always say that the fitness of the players is the key. Players do struggle during the course of the IPL. If all the players are available for selection, then it is a very good side. Quite a few of them will be missing due to injuries and international commitments. Once we get together, we will be very good.
Dhoni pointed out that the batting for the side is still very strong. "The batting line-up is as good as last year - Vijay, Badri, Raina, myself and Albie. Du Pless has come in, we have the all-rounders and Mr.Cricket (Mike Hussey) will also join us. Overall, it's a very good batting line-up," he said.
Regarding Muralitharan's absence, Dhoni admitted the Sri Lankan would be missed.
"We will miss Murali. He had great influence in the dressing room. We knew that once the auction happened, we will miss a few key players.
"Once people were out of our pocket, we found it difficult to hold them back. We have to start all over again, but the core team is virtually the same," he said.
Team owner Gurunath Meiyappan, said: "We have been very professional in the way we handled our team. This year, we have kept our core team and hope to do well.
"We have been one of the most consistent sides in the IPL so far. Our focus on the basics has paid us rich dividends and our brand of cricket has won us global admirers.
"Our team has not needed any major changes and our core group remains the same. We have tremendous faith in our boys and under our inspirational captain. We expect them to scale bigger heights."
Coach Stephen Fleming said: "With most of our players being in action during the ICC World Cup, lack of match practice will not be an issue.
"Playing the best teams in the world and in our home grounds is the best build up any player could hope for. We are quietly confident of our prospects and will play like true champions.
"Our core team remains the same and we look forward to another successful run in this year's tournament too."
The Super Kings have on board Gulf Oil as a new sponsor for three years along with Aircel, which is the main backer