For the past two seasons, the Chennai Super Kings have defied the belief that T20 is a young man's game. They have relied on players in their mid-30s and made it to consecutive finals. But with 16 months gone since the last IPL, can their experienced players still deliver? Perhaps a good way to discern whether they have faded is to look at how they have fared in the meantime.
MS Dhoni, 39
After several months of mystery, Dhoni announced his international retirement in August this year. He had endured a difficult 2019 World Cup, in which he struggled to accelerate when the team needed him to, and was not named in any India squad in the months after. He also decided against playing any of India's domestic tournaments in 2019-20. That means when he leads CSK onto the field on September 19, it will be his first professional cricket match in 437 days. Dhoni did attend Chennai's training camp back in March, where he was met by hundreds of cheering fans, and has been in camp since August 16, ahead of this season.
Shane Watson, 39
Watson announced his retirement from the Big Bash League last year, so with his international career already ended in 2016, he is now only playing the Bangladesh Premier League, the Pakistan Super League and the IPL. He had a poor BPL in 2019, with just one score of more than 10 in seven innings for the Rangpur Rangers, who finished second from bottom. He fared better in the PSL earlier this year, scoring at 27.44 and a strike rate of 157.32 for the Quetta Gladiators. He hit two fifties, the second enough to earn him a Player of the Match, but his performances were not enough to take the Gladiators to the playoffs.
Faf du Plessis, 36
du Plessis has had a torrid time since the last IPL. He seemed to spend all his time apologising in press conferences as South Africa had a disastrous 2019 World Cup campaign and then suffered sound defeats in Test series in India and England. He eventually stepped down as captain of the national side in February. His own batting remained excellent in ODIs - he has averaged 64.50 in the 50-over format since the last IPL - but his Test form did dip. Things have gone much better for him in T20 franchise cricket: he led Paarl Rocks to the title in the 2019 Mzansi Super League and averaged 27.37 in the tournament.
Dwayne Bravo, 36
It's been an eventful year for Bravo. In January he played for West Indies for the first time since 2016. After four years of disagreements with the West Indies board, and actually announcing his international retirement in 2018, Bravo returned and is now seeking a spot in the West Indies squad for the 2021 T20 World Cup. During the recent CPL, he became the first bowler to go past 500 T20 wickets. Still, setting the accolades aside, Bravo's potency as a T20 bowler seems to have dipped. He took just 11 wickets in 12 games in the 2019 IPL and got just nine in ten games in the 2020 CPL. His economy rate of 7.50 in the CPL was unremarkable, considering the tournament was a slow-scoring one in general, though he was part of the title-winning Trinbago Knight Riders side.
Imran Tahir, 41
Tahir has not slowed down one bit since he won the purple cap in the 2019 IPL. He has played a remarkable 52 T20s since and has repeatedly finished near the top of wicket-taker charts in various tournaments around the world. He was second in the 2019 CPL and third in the 2020 season, topped the charts in the 2019 Mzansi Super League, was fifth in the 2020 PSL, and sixth in the 2019 Vitality Blast.
Ambati Rayudu, 34
It's been high drama for Rayudu since the last IPL. After being less than subtle in showing his disappointment at not making the India World Cup squad, he retired from all forms of cricket in July, only to retract the retirement a couple of months later. He was named Hyderabad captain for the 2019-20 domestic season but skipped the Ranji Trophy due to apprehensions about corruption in the state's cricket board. He was back for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and performed mediocrely, getting just two 20-plus scores in seven innings. He has not played any cricket since November 2019.
Kedar Jadhav, 35
When he made his India debut in 2017, Jadhav was renowned for scoring quickly, but his strike rate has dropped since. Last season he struck at less than 100 for CSK, and it was his inability to accelerate that cost him his place in the India ODI team after the World Cup, though he did make a comeback during the tour of New Zealand earlier this year. He had an ordinary Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2019, averaging below 25 and striking at 120.65, and a poor Vijay Hazare Trophy, in which he averaged less than 20.