IPL 2020

How to fill a Raina-shaped hole in the CSK lineup?

If you give me an option to pick either Raina – the Indian middle-order batsman or Raina – the CSK Legend, more often than not, I’ll go with the latter. Such was his proficiency with the bat in the yellow suit that CSK fans fondly addressed him as “Chinna Thala.” He has represented Chennai Super Kings in 164 matches scoring 4527 runs, both higher than that of MS Dhoni, the franchise icon. The effect of his everlasting presence in the CSK setup is such that they didn’t even bother having a backup for him. With Raina now pulling out of the tournament for personal reasons, CSK is left wondering how to fill such a void. There is no way for a direct replacement, as is the case with most great players, but CSK will look at some turnarounds to develop an ideal 11 sans Raina. Let’s take a look at the options that are available to the 3-time champions.

1) The Approach of the Past

The last time Raina missed out, an IPL match for Chennai Super Kings was in 2018 against KXIP, and M Vijay replaced him by opening the innings with Rayudu dropping to the one-down position. This would be how they’re most likely to adopt with either one of M Vijay or R Gaikwad opening the innings and Rayudu filling that No. 3 spot. This approach’s downside is the lack of a left-hander at the top-order, especially with teams more familiar with the concept of match-ups nowadays.

2) Injecting S Curran at the top

S Curran’s T20 batting record at the No. 3 position reads as 230 runs from 8 matches at an average of 32.86 with an impressive strike-rate of 143.75. He has even opened once for KXIP in 2019, scoring 20(10). He can use the Power Play restrictions with his conventional strokes and is also capable of taking on the spinners if required. He provides additional value with his bowling by generating some new ball swing and the left-arm angle. However, whether he can tackle what is expected to be slow tracks in UAE is a question mark.

3) The Floating Jaddu

“We have confidence in Jadeja because he being a left-hander is not easy for the bowlers. This is the time we need to give him the opportunity. If Jadeja can do the job of the floater that would be really good for the team as we have Raina at the top of the order. I will back him as we have not given him many opportunities.” – MS Dhoni at a post-match press- conference in 2018. Jadeja’s improved abilities with the bat make a case for him to be used as a floater whenever any favorable match-ups occur. He might not always bat up the order but can be promoted to unsettle any left-arm spinners. With this method, though, CSK will still have only Jadeja as the left-hand batting option, at least if one of Curran or Santner doesn’t play. Also, Jadeja’s batting ability against quality wrist-spin is still a mystery with him not facing many of them in the past seasons.

4) The Mahi Way

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The best way for us viewers would be to rest this issue with MS Dhoni, the master at resource usage. He can adapt to any situation he faces, and as far as I know, he would’ve already sketched the plan to move forward without Raina. He might adopt one of the above methods or could even come with an out-of-the-box approach, which will leave us scratching our heads. Whatever happens, rule out CSK’s chances of making the playoffs at your peril, especially with their ability to surprise everyone by making the playoffs every time they’re written off like they have managed to do all these years.

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