The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) head into the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) as firm favourites like always. Led by the returning MS Dhoni, the 3-time IPL champions have a carefully constructed team that is more than competent in all departments.
With Dhoni not known to tinker with his combinations too much, a player on the fringes of the team will have to significantly outperform those in the XI if he is to make it as a regular.
Players who might warm the CSK bench in the 2020 IPL
That is easier said than done, and many quality T20 players have found themselves warming the benches over the years. The likes of Chris Morris, Thisara Perera and Samuel Badree have not played many games for the side despite having been excellent T20 cricketers at the time. And in the 2020 IPL, the trend inevitably seems set to continue.
Here are 3 quality CSK players who could be benched for the entirety of the 2020 IPL.
#3 Josh Hazlewood
Josh Hazlewood was bought by for 2 crores in the 2020 IPL auction by CSK, who claimed that their thin purse played a role in their auction strategies. While the Australian is a world-class Test bowler and has been decent in ODIs whenever he has gotten opportunities as well, he has played only 7 T20Is for Australia.
Hazlewood last played for the Kangaroos in the shortest format of the game in 2016, and has somewhat struggled to add deceptive variations to his unrelenting accuracy. The 29-year-old will be behind Lungi Ngidi in the pecking order at CSK, and the purchase of Sam Curran, who offers far more with the bat than either of the two, further complicates matters.
It is highly unlikely that Hazlewood gets a game in the 2020 IPL, given the spin-friendly conditions in the UAE and the fact that he has not proven himself at the death.
#2 Karn Sharma
Signed due to the turning tracks on offer at Chepauk, Karn Sharma has played only 7 games for CSK without much success. With only 5 wickets at an economy rate of 9.89, the leg-spinner wouldn't be too happy with his performances so far.
Sharma won the IPL title in three consecutive seasons with three different teams starting in 2016, but now finds himself staring at a spell on the sidelines. The acquisition of Piyush Chawla and the presence of 2019 Purple Cap winner Imran Tahir mean that he is the third-choice leggie, let alone spinner.
A veteran of 63 IPL games, the 32-year-old may not add to that tally this season with CSK. Sharma might need to seek a move away from the franchise, perhaps even as early as the mid-season trade window of the 2020 IPL.
#1 Mitchell Santner
Mitchell Santner has become something of a cult hero at CSK, despite the limited opportunities that he has got in the playing XI.
In a game against the Rajasthan Royals last season, the Kiwi smashed Ben Stokes for a six with three needed off the last ball. Morever, he has been nagging with his lines and lengths whenever he has been allowed to showcase his wares at Chepauk. With 4 wickets in 4 games at an economy of 6.71, Santner has kept a leash on opposition batsmen.
However, despite his decent performances for MS Dhoni's men, like Karn Sharma, the purchase of Piyush Chawla throws a spanner in the works. With Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo expected to be regulars in the playing XI, the left-arm spinner will have to compete with the likes of Imran Tahir, Sam Curran and Lungi Ngidi for the final overseas slot at CSK.
With Santner's skill-set also very similar to that of star all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja's, he might be sacrificed in order to add some variety to the CSK attack. It is difficult to picture the 28-year-old donning the yellow in the 2020 IPL.