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Batting holes in focus as Chennai aim to put Super in Kings again


CHENNAI: A change of captain mid-way through the season which led to him leaving the bubble unhappy with a small injury. 

Handing over the reins to a 40-year-old, who is not sure of continuing as a player next season. 

A middle-order batter, who thinks he is totally spent and announced retirement, only for the franchise to talk him out of it. These might be enough to shake the foundations at any other franchise.

Except this is Chennai Super Kings. These are big, but for the franchise, the issues run far deeper. For a team that has one of the best support systems in place and a management that has always stayed away from cricketing decisions, Chennai know these issues could be managed. 

Even after an injured Ravindra Jadeja left the bubble unhappy amidst tensions over the manner in which his captaincy role was taken away from him, they are not really sweating over it.

Their primary issues lie elsewhere. For a franchise that usually picked their strongest XI at the auction, this time they came into the IPL without having one. 

The unavailability of Deepak Chahar and the subsequent injury to Adam Milne weakened them further. Even if they are available next season, Chennai still have holes to fill.

Given the season they have had, Dwaine Pretorius and Chris Jordan may not feature in their plans next season. 

And with Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Ambati Rayudu and Dwayne Bravo all in the last leg of their careers, where will Chennai find their replacements is the question that lies ahead.

The cream of the Indian talent is already taken and so is the case with overseas players. And with the full-fledged auction already over, the chances of other teams making too many changes ahead of the next season is very thin. 

It leaves Chennai with limited options going forward. In 2020, after they failed to make it to the play-offs for the first time, Chennai didn’t press the panic button.

Instead, they brought in Moeen Ali and backed Ruturaj Gaikwad at the top, which allowed them to fix their holes and lift the title.

While the likes of Mukesh Choudhary, Simarjeet Singh, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana will compliment the likes of Mitchell Santner, Devon Conway, Gaikwad, Chahar and Milne going forward, Chennai would need at least a couple of reinforcements with the bat to fight for play-offs next season.

“We are not sure. We have a lot of jig-saw puzzles that have got good skills that we have tried to fit them altogether,” CSK head coach Stephen Fleming said with regards to the next season. 

“We have got to know where we need to improve next season. We went through this two years ago and we got it right. So we are just working hard on getting the jig-saw pieces together. There are probably places which we need to fill. But what we try to do is sort out what we have got right now and ensure we leave no stone unturned when we play next year,” he said.

Having invested again in Uthappa and Rayudu as middle-order options, Chennai don’t really have other batters waiting in the wings. While N Jagadeesan and C Hari Nishaanth are with the side, Chennai still don’t seem to consider them as regulars. 

Plus, both happen to be openers, a slot that isn’t vacant as of now. Chennai have been grooming their bowlers with an eye on next season, but it is the batting that needs addressing along with a captain.

“We have got positives throughout, but we do have a couple of holes that pop up at wrong time. We haven't been as good as we want to be and we know that. But we try and find the positives,” Fleming said.