On paper, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have a squad brimming with quality and experience for the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The 3-time IPL champions finished a lowly 7th last year, but they appear to have a roster capable of making a deep run into the playoffs.
With vice-captain Suresh Raina returning to the side after missing the previous edition of the league and a couple of world-class T20 players joining the IPL squad, competition for places in the playing XI is higher than ever.
CSK's squad for IPL 2021: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, KM Asif, Deepak Chahar, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, N Jagadeesan, Karn Sharma, Lungi Ngidi, Mitchell Santner, Ravindra Jadeja, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shardul Thakur, Sam Curran, Josh Hazlewood, R Sai Kishore, Robin Uthappa, Moeen Ali, Krishnappa Gowtham, Cheteshwar Pujara, M Harisankar Reddy, K Bhagath Varma, C Hari Nishaanth
Here are 3 CSK players who might not get a game in IPL 2021.
#3 Mitchell Santner
A player who's been part of the team since 2018, Mitchell Santner has played only 6 games for CSK in the IPL. Although he's taken 6 wickets at an economy rate of 7 in these matches and hit a last-ball six against the Rajasthan Royals, his spell on the sidelines is set to continue this year.
Santner and Ravindra Jadeja are far too similar to play in the same team, and it's clear that the former is only a backup for CSK's star all-rounder. The Kiwi might have gotten to play a couple of games had CSK been slated to play at their home ground Chepauk, but the IPL venues on offer aren't likely to assist spin.
Santner is an excellent player in the T20 format, but he might find himself on the bench throughout IPL 2021.
#2 Krishnappa Gowtham
Krishnappa Gowtham became the most expensive uncapped player in the history of the IPL in this auction, as he was snapped up by CSK for INR 9.25 crores. However, the Karnataka-born all-rounder might himself behind Moeen Ali in the pecking order for the entirety of the season, provided the Englishman's form and fitness hold up.
Gowtham is a familiar name among IPL watchers, but he has played only 24 games in the league and 9 games over the last two seasons. The off-spinner has unimpressive numbers as well - 186 runs at an average of 14.3 and 13 wickets at an economy rate of 8.26.
Ali's international experience and superior ability with the bat should give him the edge. Although he was bought for a sizeable amount, Gowtham may be nothing more than a backup option.
#1 Robin Uthappa
Robin Uthappa was traded to CSK from the Rajasthan Royals ahead of the 2021 IPL auction, but the experienced Indian batsman is not expected to walk into the playing XI. In fact, it's tough to imagine him playing even one game for CSK in this year's tournament.
Uthappa's best position in T20 cricket is as an opener, and his spells with the Royals and the Kolkata Knight Riders proved that he isn't capable of piling on the runs while batting in the middle order.
The 35-year-old has competition from youngsters Ruturaj Gaikwad and N Jagadeesan for an opening slot, while Faf du Plessis finished as the team's leading run-getter last year. They could be preferred to open the innings, leaving No. 4 as the only available position in the team.
With MS Dhoni having immense faith in Ambati Rayudu, we may see Uthappa carry drinks throughout IPL 2021.