IPL auction: CSK eye replacements for Ben Stokes, Ambati Rayudu | Crickit
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IPL auction: CSK eye replacements for Ben Stokes, Ambati Rayudu

By, New Delhi
Dec 14, 2023 09:11 PM IST

Chennai Super Kings have retained many players and ensured that they won’t have to change things too much this season as well

They are the reigning champions and they’ve got there time and again by doing things in their very unique way. Most of the other teams chase mavericks, explosiveness and the madness of youth. They do it because, as many would agree, T20 cricket demands all of that.

CSK will look for a replacement for Ben Stokes, who has been released.(BCCI/IPL)
CSK will look for a replacement for Ben Stokes, who has been released.(BCCI/IPL)

But try telling the Chennai Super Kings that. Many teams rely on individual glory — knowing that one great performance can be the difference in the T20 format — and they aren’t wrong. But under skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming, CSK have gone about establishing a system that is the envy of the rest of the league.

Dhoni has always stressed the need to read game situations well and understanding the team’s requirements in those situations. Whether it works out from that point or not is a different matter but having the right mindset is vital.

In an episode of the Anbuden Diaries, uploaded in May, Moeen Ali spoke about what separates Dhoni from other captains, for that he said, "What separates MS from everybody else as captain in many ways is that, say guys have a couple of bad games, especially in the first couple of games, and I think every other team would drop the player or say 'look you are probably not good enough right now'. And that's where MS sees things and coaches see things in players. They see the potential and give them chances. Most teams don't do that. Most teams don't stick with the players long."

So, you may not always get your chances very often but when you do, you will get a decent run at it. It is a fascinating way of looking at things but it also shows why being different isn’t always wrong.

Backing players

CSK have done, as CSK usually do. They have retained many players and ensured that they won’t have to change things too much this season as well. That being said, this unit has its process and enough role players to give Dhoni the firepower that CSK need to be among the contenders again.

Devon Conway and Ruturaj Gaikwad have been brilliant at the top of the order. Ajinkya Rahane, 326 runs at a strike-rate of 172.49, played with refreshing freedom last season. After struggling in his first three seasons, Shivam Dube’s career has turned around after he signed for CSK in 2022. Ravindra Jadeja is arguably the best allrounder in the game.

On the bowling front, Tushar Deshpande was among the wickets last season — claiming 21 — and he was well backed up by Mukesh Choudhary (16 wkts). But it wasn’t just them. Matheesha Pathirana took 19 wickets and Maheesh Theekshana will be expected to do better but following his World Cup heroics, Mitchell Saunter should get a few more games this season. Deepak Chahar didn’t play as much as he would have liked but he’s around too.

And then there is the tactical genius that Dhoni brings to the table. One would reckon that this is a pretty sorted unit already.

Shopping time

But there are gaps to be filled. Ambati Rayudu played 16 games for them last season and he is gone this time around. CSK will be on the lookout for an experienced hand or at least one that meets their very exact specifications.

Rachin Ravindra has a very sorted head on his shoulders and as he showed during the World Cup, he is just as comfortable against spin as he is against pace. With former NZ skipper Fleming as head coach, CSK could seriously consider going after him in the upcoming auction. As bowler, he will also provide them with a spin option. His overall vibe just seems to be a good fit for CSK but there is bound to be some solid competition for him.

Another option could be Manish Pandey. He hasn’t always managed to play to potential but one can count on CSK to eke that out of a player. At 34, he also matches the right age profile that CSK usually look for.

The other big gap to be filled is the one left by Ben Stokes. The England allrounder was bought by CSK for Rs16.25 crore in 2023 auction but injuries never allowed him to give them their money’s worth.

So CSK need a big overseas star in their line-up. One option that would bolster their bowling would be Pat Cummins. He hasn’t always been the most natural fit in the shortest format but as he showed during the World Cup final, he can always take things up a gear or two. He will bring an experienced and calm head to the unit — something that CSK have appreciated over the years. Josh Hazlewood, who has played for CSK in the past, could also be lined up.

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