After a disastrous campaign in the 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) that saw them miss out on the playoffs for the first time in their history, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have recovered superbly.
The Men in Yellow are currently placed second in the IPL 2021 points table and could leapfrog the Delhi Capitals if they win their game in hand. The horrors of the 2020 season have been replaced by a calm confidence that has been typical of CSK over the years, with new signing Moeen Ali and the returning Suresh Raina instilling dynamism in the side.
In a team filled with high-profile stars, it's hard for players to fly under the radar. But some have done just that. Here are the three most underrated CSK players right now.
#3 Sai Kishore
If you aren't a keen follower of Tamil Nadu cricket, you might not know much about Sai Kishore. But the young left-arm spinner, who was recently named as a net bowler for India during their Sri Lanka tour, is right up there with the best bowlers of his kind in the country.
Relentlessly accurate, tall and unwaveringly calm, Sai Kishore has been a consistently underrated performer in domestic cricket and in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) over the last few years. He has already captained a TNPL franchise and assumed death-bowling duties for the Chepauk Super Gillies in this year's edition.
Sai Kishore has already received endorsements from the likes of Dinesh Karthik, and it seems like only a matter of time before he gets a chance to display his immense talent on the IPL stage. He has everything a young spinner needs and would already be a star for CSK if not for the all-round brilliance of Ravindra Jadeja.
#2 Deepak Chahar
Everyone knows Deepak Chahar is a powerplay specialist who regularly picks up wickets with the new ball, but few acknowledge just how tough the task he carries out on a regular basis is.
CSK don't have any express pacers in their lineup when they don't play Lungi Ngidi, and essentially, they don't have a backup option in the powerplay for when things go wrong. It's testament to Chahar's consistency that CSK have managed to keep their opening bowling combination intact over the last three IPL seasons.
Even in the IPL 2021 season, Chahar has won matches single-handedly in the powerplay. And when he has been called upon to send down an over or two in the middle overs or at the death, he has delivered more often than not. Add that to his batting ability and fielding, and you have an invaluable cricketer.
The value Chahar adds with the three overs he guarantees in the powerplay is often taken for granted, which shouldn't be the case at all.
You can check out for the IPL 2021 schedule here.
#1 Ambati Rayudu
Ambati Rayudu has quickly become a fan favorite among the CSK faithful, despite making the switch from arch-rivals Mumbai Indians. The explosive right-hander has been a consistently underrated performer throughout his IPL career, not just for CSK.
Rayudu is the closest CSK have come to a replacement for Subramaniam Badrinath. As a batsman who lifts the team out of crises with his doggedness, he has evolved into a clean ball-striker who can play any role asked of him. IPL 2020, during which most of CSK's batsmen struggled to put bat to ball, saw the 35-year-old amass 359 runs at an average of almost 40.
Although he has been moved down the order this year because Moeen Ali has been batting at No. 3, Rayudu has tallied 136 runs at an astonishing strike rate of 200. He will continue to be one of CSK's most important batsmen when the season resumes in the UAE.