With an ageing squad and underperforming batsmen, MS Dhoni's men are all but out of the reckoning for a playoff spot, and are likely miss out on the knockout stages for the first time in their storied history.
Ahead of IPL 2020, the biggest talking point surrounding CSK was the unexpected withdrawal of Suresh Raina. The franchise's vice-captain travelled to the UAE with his teammates, but before CSK were allowed to begin training, he flew back home citing personal reasons.
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 (@ChennaiIPL) August 29, 2020
While it's wrong to jump to conclusions without knowing what exactly prompted Raina to pull out of IPL 2020, an unfortunate attack on his family members in Punjab and a number of the CSK contingent testing positive for COVID-19 were speculated to be the likely reasons.
Till date we don’t know what exactly had happened that night & who did this. I request @PunjabPoliceInd to look into this matter. We at least deserve to know who did this heinous act to them. Those criminals should not be spared to commit more crimes. @capt_amarinder @CMOPb
— Suresh Raina🇮🇳 (@ImRaina) September 1, 2020
But given the embarrassing position that CSK find themselves in and the uncertainty surrounding the timing of the next IPL mega-auction, it might be time for them to move on from a player who has been a part of their squad for every season apart from this one.
Here are 3 reasons why CSK shouldn't retain Suresh Raina.
#3 Suresh Raina is clearly past his prime, and had his worst IPL season in 2019
Although CSK made the IPL 2019 final in an attempt to win back-to-back titles, the team largely relied on individual performances to win games, and very few players put up consistent displays.
One player who was nowhere near his best was Raina. The southpaw scored only 383 runs (his second-lowest tally in a single IPL season), and both his average (23.93) and his strike rate (121.97) were all-time lows for a single IPL campaign. He also cleared the boundary on only 9 occasions over the course of the entire season - another career low.
And it's not like Raina has international cricket to fall back on and get himself back into form. The unsung hero from India's 2011 World Cup triumph last played an international game in 2018, and despite being only 33 years old, announced his retirement on Independence Day earlier this year.
Raina's form in the IPL has steadily declined over the years, but an emotional attachment with CSK and the faith that captain MS Dhoni has in him has ensured that even the staunchest critics hold hope that he can turn things around. However, it's very difficult to see him return to the form that he showed in his prime.
#2 CSK have experienced the pitfalls of an ageing squad in IPL 2020
While CSK managed to defy age and reach the IPL finals of 2018 and 2019, their shortcomings in the department have caught up to them this year.
Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, Piyush Chawla, Karn Sharma, Dwayne Bravo, Murali Vijay, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja - all of these players, who've played key roles for CSK in IPL 2020, are on the wrong side of 30. This has shown not only in their batting/bowling but in the field as well.
Even captain MS Dhoni, who is as fit as ever at the ripe old age of 39, has seen an undeniable decline in hand-eye coordination. Having always been a player who relies on his fast hands rather than textbook technique, the CSK captain has failed to rotate strike and clear the boundary at will like he used to be able to.
CSK head coach Stephen Fleming, who is one of the most astute thinkers the game of cricket has ever seen, admitted recently that the team is struggling with an ageing squad in their third year. And the speculated postponement of the mega-auction doesn't bode well for CSK, who desperately need an overhaul of their roster.
Even though they might not be able to sign the biggest young stars ahead of next year's IPL in the absence of a mega-auction, getting Raina's massive contract off the books might be the first step towards redemption.
#1 Is the relationship between CSK and Suresh Raina damaged beyond repair?
CSK and their fans have always adored 'Chinna Thala', but tensions threatened to boil over ahead of IPL 2020 following Raina's withdrawal.
Numerous rumours circulated saying that Raina was unhappy with the hotel room he was allotted in the UAE, while others claimed that the positive COVID-19 tests instilled a sense of fear in him.
CSK owner N Srinivasan did nothing to dispel these reports, and claimed that 'cricketers are like prima donnas' and that 'success gets to their heads sometimes'. Although Raina and the former BCCI President attempted to resolve their differences publicly (and rather unconvincingly), it was evident that all was not well between the two.
Soon after, CSK removed all traces of Raina's name from the official website, while rumours that the social media handles of the team unfollowed their vice-captain also started doing the rounds. Even if that were not true, the team's social media profiles haven't acknowledged the presence of Raina since he pulled out, which is strange considering that he has been vocal in his support for CSK online.
Add to this the bizarre decision on CSK's part to not sign a replacement, and the question must be asked: Is the relationship between CSK and their Chinna Thala damaged beyond repair?
Suresh Raina has given it all in the yellow jersey. Chennai has become his adopted home, and the adulation that he receives from CSK's fans might only be surpassed by the fandom that MS Dhoni experiences.
However, in light of recent events and Raina's own performances over the last few years, it might be time for the 3-time champions to let go of an indelible part of their history.