1. The Dhoni factor
Their biggest strength is the presence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He is not a mere skipper but the heart of the engine that propels their every little move. No other player in the history of IPL has captained a team more than the Jharkhand man and over the years he has attained a cult status among the local population. It's not for nothing they call him 'Thala' here.
Dhoni may not be the batsman that he once was but in a yellow jersey he can transform into an enforcer as he showed last year. But he remains a wonderful wicket-keeper and a captain whose awareness about the limited-over game is unmatched. The Chennai outfit will certainly want Dhoni at his best in IPL 2019 to travel all the way.
They have a number of players who are battle hardened over the years. Players such as Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja etc are quite aware of the ebb and flow of the IPL games. Last year, their presence prompted people to term Chennai as Dad's Army but the veterans walked away with the title. The big match experience these players bring to the table is quite precious.
Players like Watson, Jadhav, Bravo, Jadeja etc have been in good nick too of late as showed for various teams. Rayudu, who has fallen off recently in the race for No 4 slot in the Indian team, would like to use this IPL 2019 to surge to the frontline of competitors, just like he did in IPL 2018.
There is no obvious chinks in the armour of the Chennai outfit. They have this envious combination of experience and fire power. But some of the key players like Raina and Harbhajan are short of match practice and it may reflect in their efforts at least in the initial phase. But they have enough experience to overcome that hurdle.
4. The fan connection
The Chennai side has built a connection with the fans unlike any other franchise in the IPL. They emote with fans at various levels. They use the marketability of Dhoni to a good extent, then they have all that catchy local slogans like 'Whistle Podu' and 'Enga Thala Dhonikku periya whistle podunge' that sit well with the large fan base. The fans have been loyal too, standing behind the team in good and bad times and often they have been termed as the 12th man of Chennai outfit.
Last year, they missed out several home games owing to the Cauvery protests in Tamil Nadu as the home matches were shifted to Pune. But this time, there is no such threats and the locals will get to see their favourite team an eyeful.