“Suresh Raina has returned to India for personal reasons and will be unavailable for the remainder of the IPL season. Chennai Super Kings offers complete support to Suresh and his family during this time.”
Chennai Super Kings (CSK) CEO Kasi Viswanathan put out this message on Saturday morning through the franchise’s official Twitter handle. Raina has been the second most important cog in the CSK wheel after M S Dhoni. This is a big blow for the three-time Indian Premier League (IPL) champions.
This is a summary of the role that Raina has played in CSK, and how the absence of Dhoni’s Man Friday could impact the team this season.
Raina as a batsman
Over the past 12 seasons, Raina has scored 5,368 runs in 193 matches for CSK.
The team has Faf du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, and Murali Vijay in the top order. But Raina’s ability to pace his innings at No. 3 separates him from the rest. He is the glue in CSK’s batting.
Also, Raina has the ability to up the ante in the death overs. His 137 IPL strike rate attests to his all-round ability as a batsman.
In Raina’s absence, if Dhoni decides to promote himself up the order, then the team will have to find a new finisher. Raina’s unavailability is likely to force CSK to rejig, batting-wise.
Raina as a bowler and fielder
It would be wrong to judge Raina’s bowling by the number of wickets – 25 – he has taken in the IPL.
He has been Dhoni’s go-to man in the middle overs, especially against left-handers. His economy rate, a little over 7, confirms his utility as a part-time off-spinner. His skill to take the ball away from left-handers helps CSK to curtail runs before the death overs.
Often Raina has shaken the momentum of rival teams by breaking partnerships.
In the desert heat, on overused pitches – just three venues will be used for the 2020 IPL in the United Arab Emirates – taking pace off the ball would be important, and Raina’s absence is going to hurt CSK, the fact that the squad is loaded with spinners notwithstanding. In Raina’s absence, the onus would be on Kedar Jadhav to step up as the team’s fifth or sixth bowler.
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And even at 33 years of age, Raina remains an outstanding fielder, mainly because of his anticipation. CSK will miss his world-class presence both close-in and in the outfield.
Dhoni’s Man Friday
Such is the bond between the two players that Raina decided to hang up his international boots minutes after his skipper bade farewell to international cricket.
Raina is Dhoni’s deputy in CSK, someone who contributes a great deal to the strategy with his tactical inputs. From short mid-wicket or short cover, Raina is always talking to the younger bowlers, helping them feel comfortable.
Team’s on-field cheerleader
Raina also acts as a bridge between the junior cricketers and Dhoni.
The CSK skipper is a man of few words, and although Dhoni hardly carries any airs, young players can be a little hesitant to directly communicate with their captain. Given Dhoni’s stature in the game, that’s understandable. This is where Raina acts as a bridge and this method has worked wonderfully well for the team.
His energy in the field too, is vital. He keeps the fielders on the toes, appreciates their efforts, and is always ready with inputs for the bowlers.
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