Chennai have had a major setback ahead of the Indian T20 League season with the departures of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh. For a franchise that thrives on continuity, the loss is a massive one and it compounds their problems in that most of their players are on the edge of falling out of their prime. The overseas recruits could play a massive role for them this season. Here, we identify which players are likely to be the first-choice four overseas picks for Chennai this season.
Overseas players: Josh Hazlewood, Imran Tahir, Faf du Plessis, Mitchell Santner, Dwayne Bravo, Lungi Ngidi, Sam Curran, Shane Watson.
Tahir won the purple cap last season and is one of the most sought-after T20 spinners in world cricket today. A terrific game-changer with his ability to pick up wickets, Tahir has been used pretty well by MS Dhoni in the last couple of years. In 2019, Tahir finished as the top wicket-taker with 26 scalps in the season. Tahir should enjoy the slow, low UAE conditions, similar to what he thrived in during the recent Caribbean Premier League season.
Lungisani Ngidi is a rather underrated T20 bowler and has developed a brilliant slower ball for the death overs, making him one of the most underrated wicket-takers in T20 cricket now. Luckily, Chennai recognises his value. In fact, with Dwayne Bravo's T20 death overs numbers on the wane, we could well see Ngidi chosen over him despite the batting potential Bravo has. Ngidi has been effective in the powerplays too and Chennai could use him in a wicket-taking role at either end of an innings, a possibility near impossible with Bravo who is a death-only bowler. This could well be the season Chennai move away from Bravo and install Ngidi in a similar role.
The big match player, Shane Watson has silenced critics time and again with his outstanding batting in crunch games and will definitely continue at the top of the order for Chennai. MS Dhoni and the team's think-tank know that Watson might fail more often than not, but he does know to step up when the crisis arrives and it is that trait that will keep Watson in the team this season too. It is unlikely he will bowl, but his batting itself has added a different dimension to the Chennai batting and they are likely to continue with the same despite the difference in conditions.
Faf du Plessis
With Dwayne Bravo an unlikely starter, Chennai need more power on the batting front, and in Faf du Plessis, they have a good player of pace and spin capable of maximising the powerplay or rotating strike in the middle overs. It remains to be seen if Faf is used in a middle-order role to replace Suresh Raina or at the top alongside Shane Watson. Likely, we will see Ambati Rayudu or Ruturaj Gaikwad opening with Watson and du Plessis stepping in at No. 3 to play the Raina role. He will lend experience and stability in the position and will be a cushion for the likes of Dhoni and Jadeja coming in later.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Indranil Mukherjee