Suresh Raina’s loss is unparallel for the Chennai Super Kings who have been hit by massive injury blows right at the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018. The MS Dhoni-led side have won their first two encounters and stand on top of the IPL points table but the journey forward for the team is not going to be an easy one with several important players sidelined. After Kedar Jadhav injured his hamstring in the opening encounter against the Mumbai Indians, veteran Suresh Raina who has never missed an IPL game for the Chennai Super Kings in his illustrious stint with the franchise was ruled out for 10 days after getting injured.
Due to a calf muscle injury, Raina will be out of action for CSK against the Kings XI Punjab who they face on Sunday in a blockbuster encounter at the PCA Cricket Stadium in Mohali with former player Ravichandran Ashwin returning to lead his troops against his old mates. Ahead of the match, Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming hailed Raina as one of the best players in the IPL while calling him irreplaceable. “We can’t replace him. He is one of the best performers in the IPL and highest run scorer, so we can’t replace him, but we have just got to find a way to minimise his loss,” said Fleming when asked about Raina’s replacement in the side.
Chennai Super Kings were expected to start with Murali Vijay as their opening batsman but the team has opted to instead play with Ambati Rayudu top of the order and the move has paid well in the two games that they have managed to pocket in thrilling fashion. In the absence of Suresh Raina, Fleming said that the batting order can welcome a few changes which will be revisited once the southpaw is fit again.
The franchise has a number of options to fill in that position with one out of Dhruv Shorey or Murali Vijay opening the batting with Shane Watson which can push Rayudu at number 3 to replace Raina. Fleming hinted that Vijay or Shorey can feature in the game against Kings XI Punjab as they both have previously played in similar conditions. “We have got good players in our set up. Dhruv Shorey, Murali Vijay who has played here (in Mohali) last year… So, these are guys with points to prove with international experience and when they get the chance they would do their best to do what Suresh Raina can do,” asserted the Kiwi coach.
The likes of Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, and Kedar Jadhav have increased the team’s concern as the competition gets tougher with every passing day. South African pacer Lungi Ngidi is also not available due to some personal family commitments. Ngidi flew back to his home after the news of sudden death of his father. In his absence, Mark Wood or David Willey can be roped in the playing XI to lead the pace attack.
The team has also received a major setback due to ongoing Cauvery water dispute which has led to a massive protest in the state of Tamil Nadu, forcing CSK to shift their base to Pune where they will play their remaining home games. Talking about the new venue, Fleming who had coached Rising Pune Supergiants in the past two seasons playing on the same ground said that irrespective of how the pitch turns out for them, Chepauk cannot be replaced. “Whether the Pune pitch is the same it was 12 months earlier, we will have to wait and see when we get there. We know some characteristics of that ground, which is again a positive. Does it replace Chepauk, no it doesn’t. But we will get our players get used to the conditions (at Pune) as quick as we can,” said Fleming.