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Chennai Super Kings raring to go

The Chennai Super Kings faces a challenge in the management of its foreign players in the Indian Premier League.

The side has seven overseas stars — Muttiah Muralitharan, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Stephen Fleming, Jacob Oram, Makhaya Ntini and Albie Morkel — but all of them will not be available in the squad for selection during all stages of the competition.

Super Kings’ Director of Cricket Operations V.B. Chandrasekar said in a chat with The Hindu, “This will be a hurdle. But we have depth in the side, there are a lot of domestic cricketers with ability.”

Hayden and Hussey will be available for only the first four games before they set off for Australia’s campaign in the West Indies. Oram too will not be in the squad after the first four matches since he will be joining the New Zealand team in England.

Ntini and Morkel will miss at least the first three games since the IPL dates clash with the domestic Twenty20 tournament in South Africa.

Muralitharan and Fleming are the only overseas cricketers who will be available for all the 14 games involving the Super Kings.

Chandrasekar looks at the brighter side: “At least, we will not have to bench a foreign player,” he quips. Each IPL team is allowed to field only four overseas cricketers in the eleven.

He then turns more serious. “Hayden will be particularly hard to replace. He is of immense value in the top order. We will possibly push Fleming to the opening slot after Hayden leaves. Fleming can bat in the initial overs and then guide the innings through the middle phase.”

Says Chandrasekar, “Denying the opposition breakthroughs in the first four overs will be critical, especially when you are up against someone like Brett Lee. Even in this format, we need to preserve wickets initially.”

Hussey can don the role of the finisher. Apart from bowling his seamers usefully, Oram can effortlessly dump the ball in the stands. It will not be easy to fill into those shoes.

Chandrasekar says the arrival off Morkel after the initial phase should make up for the loss of Oram.

“Morkel can strike the ball a long way and he should be able to provide the innings thrust in the middle and the end overs. He can also chip in with the ball.”

The attack, he believes, will be strengthened by the inclusion of Ntini.

“We are looking at him as a strike bowler. We could not get an out-and-out quick at the auction but his name came up towards the end and we were happy to grab him.

“He is aggressive and has the precious ability to pick two or three wickets with the new ball. Wickets help in any form of the game.”

Who will partner Ntini? “It could be L. Balaji,” replies Chandrasekar. Balaji, who has almost recovered from a stress fracture of the back, will be phased into the IPL.

“He will not play all 14 games, but I expect him to do well. We also have good back-ups in Manpreet Goni and P. Amarnath,” says Chandrasekar.

Of course, the four overs of Muralitharan will be a huge factor in any game.

Chandrasekar says the Tamil Nadu cricketers such as S. Badrinath, Anirudh Srikkanth, R. Ashwin and Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan add depth to the side. “They are all good cricketers and we have options. Either Anirudh or Vidyut could open the innings,” he adds.

The Chennai Super Kings, he says, is ready.

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