Chennai Super Kings confident despite problems

The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are lurching from one crisis to another - and that isn't ideal preparation for the favourites as cricket's Indian Premier League starts on Sept 19 in the United Arab Emirates and Sharjah.

A buoyant CSK team landed in Dubai on Aug 21, but nothing has gone right for them since then.

Barely days into the mandatory quarantine, they were jolted by the news that two players - Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad - and 11 support staff had been infected with Covid-19.

That was followed by the dramatic departure of star batsman Suresh Raina, and veteran Indian off-spinner Harbajan Singh deciding to stay put in India.

Raina, the highest run-getter for CSK, cited "personal reasons" for his hurried departure from the team base in Dubai. But there is speculation that he left because of reasons ranging from concern over the coronavirus outbreak in the team, a tiff over the hotel room given to him and the murder of relatives in India.

Harbhajan, 40, who helped Mumbai Indians win three IPL titles before joining Chennai in 2018 where he took 23 wickets in the last two seasons, also quit the squad for personal reasons.

His friend told the Press Trust of India that the 13 positive Covid-19 cases in the team was not the reason behind Harbhajan pulling out.

"If you have a wife and toddler staying in India for three months, your mind will be diverted and you can't fully focus on the game," said the friend.

The absence of the two experienced players will hurt the Chennai-based franchise, who open their campaign against the fancied Mumbai Indians in the IPL opener on Sept 19.

Raina is the second most successful batsman in the league, behind Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli. His consistency and brisk scoring have been integral to the success of CSK.

Harbhajan's best days may be over, but his accuracy helps choke the scoring and he can score some quick runs late in the order. He's been a proven matchwinner in Twenty20, the shortest format of the game.

CSK rely heavily on their spin department to win matches. Now they will be depending on Imran Tahir, Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner to deliver the goods.

The team management has not announced a replacement for Raina or Harbhajan. The belief among CSK fans is that South African Faf du Plessis or captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni can replace Raina at No. 3.

The team generally rely a lot on their Indian core and batsmen such as Ambati Rayudu and Murali Vijay can step into the breach.

CSK will also be depending heavily on Dhoni to lead from the front. The veteran wicketkeeper-batsman is ice cool and his unflagging self-belief can inspire confidence in the ranks. He and coach Stephen Fleming have made CSK one of the most successful IPL teams.

CEO Kasi Viswanathan and owner N. Srinivasan said CSK are ready for the opener. "To all the Chennai Super Kings' super fans, this is to confirm that the team is in very good shape, you need not worry," said Viswanathan. "We have a skipper who has navigated us through very tough times. Thalaivan (Dhoni) will definitely take care of the team and we are very confident."

The IPL will be played from Sept 19 to Nov 10 at three venues - Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

Indo-Asian News Service


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