Chennai have been dealt a considerable blow as Suresh Raina, a veteran of 187 Indian T20 League games for the squad, returned home to India from UAE citing personal reasons. With less than two weeks to go to the 2020 edition of the Indian T20 League, Chennai are left searching for a replacement for their highest run-scorer in history. Chennai are also crippled by the fact that most Indian players would have already found a home in the Indian T20 League.
Digging up an unsold player from the auction who could snugly fit into their set-up could be a tough task.
Chennai have traditionally preferred experienced players or ones they have worked with in the past or have a good work ethic. As such, their options aren't way too many. Here, we identify three potential options for Chennai to replace Raina.
T20 stats: Matches - 178, Runs - 3384, Avg - 28.92, SR - 116.24
Two factors favour Manoj Tiwary - his batting against spinners on slow wickets and his previous working relationship with MS Dhoni at Pune where he played a starring role down the order.
Manoj Tiwary is by no means a like-for-like replacement for Raina. But factor in his success with Dhoni as a middle-order batsman in the Pune set-up and you are inclined to think of Tiwary as Chennai material. Dhoni will love the experience Tiwary brings to the table and his batting against spinners in conditions where the ball is expected to turn square.
Stephen Fleming too has worked with Tiwary, and Chennai will not have to fiddle too much with bringing him up-to-date with the workings of the coach and captain in this setup.
T20 stats: Matches - 38, Runs - 780, Avg - 27.85, SR - 118.18
Dhruv Shorey isn't quite the veteran cricketer Chennai usually prefer but the youngster was a part of their setup until recently and had very little opportunity to showcase his skills. Chennai are particular about giving players enough chances and are extra careful in blooding them into the XI, and so the release of Shorey, a talented name in domestic circles, without fulfilling these checkboxes was a bit of a surprise.
Now, with a spot opening up as Raina leaves, Chennai might want to consider Shorey, who went unsold in the auction for this Indian T20 League season. A dynamic batsman and a quick fielder, Shorey will add fresh legs to an ageing Chennai line-up and is pretty adept against pace and spin. The top-order batsman might be in for some competition from Ruturaj Gaikwad for a place in the starting XI, provided the latter recovers from the virus by the time the games begin.
T20 stats: Matches - 274, Runs - 4852, Avg - 27.56, SR - 139.34
Throw away conventions and Chennai's usual preferences, and Yusuf Pathan, who is without an Indian T20 League contract, will be the ideal replacement for Raina in their setup. While he ticks the part-timer box, what makes him a perfect fit is the value he could bring with the bat.
A lower-order hitter who can turn games on his own, Yusuf will add batting depth without compromising much on the bowling front and can be a cushion for the assigned finishers, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo, all of whom are waning in prowess.
While Yusuf wasn't promising enough in his last stint with Hyderabad, Chennai have a knack of freeing up players - Shane Watson being an example in this regard - and Yusuf could just rediscover some of his old mojo here.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Punit Paranjpe
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