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Super Kings eye Champions League semis

The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings first job will be to reach the semi-finals of the Twenty 20 Champions League, said the squad's director cricket operations, VB Chandrasekar.

Announcing the team, which finished runners-up in the inaugural Indian Premier League, Chandrasekar said, "Our first port of call is the semi-final and then the final will be anybody's chance.

"In this scenario unlike in IPL, we have to make sure that we get to the semi-final. I am sure people will have a better idea about our players compared to other teams.

"No team in the Champions League could be taken for granted. In IPL no body gave Rajasthan Royals a chance. In the coming tournament, the element of uncertainty will be there. It will be tough to predict what is going to happen."

Barring Jacob Oram, yet to recover fully from the injury that forced him to return home midway from New Zealand's tour of Bangladesh, the Chennai Super Kings will have the services of seasoned and experienced overseas players like Mathew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Muttiah Muralitharan, Albie Morkel and Makhaya Ntini for the tournament.

Chandrasekar said the thrust in the playing eleven would be fielding and fitness.

"We have the option of rotating our Indian stars even if we play all the five overseas players in a match. We look at it differently," he said.

"Dhoni is the best wicketkeeper-batsman but he will be more useful in the outfield. If Parthiv (Patel) plays as an opener, he will keep the wickets. He did a reasonably good work in the IPL. We have the option of more than one player to keep the wickets with Hussey also being there."

As for Morkel and Hussey, who decided to play for Chennai Super Kings in the Champions League instead of their domestic sides, Chandrasekar said that as per rules the IPL franchise has the first right of opting for the player.

"They had to be playing for us. In the bargain we had to shell out $ 200,000 to Nashua Titans (for Morkel) and Western Australia (for Hussey) -- both teams will take part in the Champions League -- as per rules," he said.

On holding a short one or two-day camp before the tournament, Chandarsekar said "it is highly unlikely. We will meet up in Mumbai at the end of the Ranji Trophy tie (on December 2).

"There is hardly any chance of having a camp. It is not going to be possible in such tight schedule of a tournament of this nature. Hayden and Hussey are going to land here at the end of their Test series like Morkel.

"All of them would have completed six weeks of playing competitive cricket for their respective countries before landing in Mumbai on December 3."

On former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming's appointment as coach of the team, Chandrasekar said, "Kepler Wessels has not extended his contract. We felt that it is going to be much easier for players to gel well with Fleming, who had played at the highest level and could transform his knowledge better as coach of the team. It will be easy for players to brush shoulders with Fleming."

The team is planning to have spinner R Ashwin as stand-by for Muralitharan. They have meanwhile retained Arun Karthik and dropped S Vidyuth to have better right-left balance in the batting department.

They also left out Joginder Sharma, recuperating from a heel injury.

The eight teams in fray play the initial round on league basis with the top two qualifying for the semi-finals.

In the first semi-final to be held in Bangalore on December 8, the winner of Group B meets the runners-up of Group A and in the second semi-final in Chennai the net day, the winner of Group A will clash with the runners-up of Group B. The final is scheduled at Chennai on December 10.

Keeping the above schedule in mind, the Indian cricket board has urged their England counterparts to postpone the start of the first Test match by a day to provide some rest to the Indian cricketers who would be playing the Champions League final on December 10.

The first Test between India and England is scheduled to start on December 11 at Ahmedabad.

The squad : MS Dhoni (captain), M Hayden, M Hussey, S Raina, A Morkel, S Badrinath, C Kapugedara, KB Arun Karthik P Patel, R Ashwin, M Muralitharan, M Ntini, L Balaji, M Gony, S Tyagi.

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