The mega auction getting postponed has, arguably, hurt Chennai Super Kings more than any other side, but what’s been evident is that they are a franchise least bothered by noise from the outside. While they have released the un-retainables, there are plenty of old guards still holding their fort.
A riot would have ensued had CSK retained Kedar Jadhav for 7.80 crore on the back of his dismal IPL 2020, so releasing the right-hander was a step in the right direction. So was the termination of Harbhajan Singh and Murali Vijay, both of whom are well past their prime, and the axing of Piyush Chawla, who was a gamble that went wrong. But, overall, have CSK really been prudent and proactive with their releases?
Who have CSK retained?
MS Dhoni (c), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, KM Asif, Deepak Chahar, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Narayan Jagadeesan, Karn Sharma, Lungi Ngidi, Mitchell Santner, Ravindra Jadeja, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shardul Thakur, Josh Hazlewood, R Sai Kishore, Sam Curran
Who have CSK released?
Kedar Jadhav, Harbhajan Singh, Shane Watson, Monu Singh, Piyush Chawla, Murali Vijay
What is their remaining purse?
INR 19.9 cr
How many slots do they have available?
7 (1 overseas)
Guilty of not clearing more deadwood
CSK were lauded for saving a whopping 14.55 crore by releasing Jadhav and Chawla, but they were, at the same time, guilty of not taking enough harsh decisions. The club chose to retain the duo of Dwayne Bravo and Karn Sharma, who combinedly cost them an equally ridiculous amount - 11.40 crore. While some might argue that Bravo is a core member that constitutes the side’s nucleus, that simply hasn’t been the case for a long while. Across the last 3 seasons, the 37-year-old has averaged just 0.91 wickets per innings, and, more importantly, has been a borderline liability at the death, conceding 10.48 runs per over, on average. His batting, too, has fallen off a cliff, with him making no notable contributions across each of the last two editions. As for Karn, his retention at INR 5 crore is flabbergasting, particularly when he’s just played 12 matches for the club across 3 full seasons. It goes unsaid that CSK would have headed into the auction in a much better position had they not taken decisions motivated by emotion.
Too many needs; not enough cash and space
CSK retained a whopping 18 players, and the addition of Robin Uthappa yesterday took that count to 19. Having more squad members is certainly healthy, for it gives the management a bigger pool of players to choose from, but an inherent problem for the franchise is that there is a paucity of world-class players. There is also, on top of this, gaping holes to be filled. Generally, teams fix such situations by splashing cash on foreign players in the auction, but the concern for the club is that 1 overseas slot is all they have left, to go along with a small purse of INR 19.9 cr. The team is in desperate need of a power-hitting opener up top and one more world-class batsman in the middle, yet a sole overseas slot remaining means that they will, once again, have to find a way to mask evident shortcomings. Seldom are there world-class Indian batsmen to be signed in the mini-auction. This is a subset of the first point - they might pay the price for hoarding up one too many players. Perhaps, to free up a slot, the club could have considered letting go of a Santner, who is not bound to play more than 3 or 4 games a season, particularly when there are Indian alternatives.
Do they now invest in a spinner?
The release of both Piyush Chawla and Harbhajan Singh has now thrown an interesting question: do CSK go in the market looking for a seasoned spinner? In Jadeja, Tahir, Karn, Sai Kishore and Santner - CSK have as many as five spinning options, yet playing more than two of the aforementioned names together might not be a feasible option owing to different reasons. The team could very well do with one more spinner - preferably one that turns the ball into the right-hander - thus how they approach the situation will be fascinating. Mujeeb is there for the taking, yet you suspect with one overseas slot remaining, opting for a spinner over a batsman would be silly. This makes you wonder if CSK would be eyeing someone like a Krishnappa Gowtham, who not only is a seasoned off-spinner but also is a handy customer with the bat. They could do with a power hitter, eh.
CSK were press-ganged into releasing Jadhav and Chawla, but their overall strategy has lacked foresight and has been disappointing. What’s evident is that they are apprehensive about making a change - even if it's for the better - and would much rather be reactive than proactive. This season should tell us if 2020 was a one-off or something more significant. As things stand, things do not look good for the Super Kings even if they manage to pull a rabbit out of the hat in the auction.
Overall rating - 5/10