Defending champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) had the tough task of releasing players after having clinched the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 trophy. They decided to retain all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja (Rs 16 crore), captain MS Dhoni (Rs 12 crore), England all-rounder Moeen Ali (Rs 8 crore) and opening batter Ruturaj Gaikwad (Rs 6 crore). Among the big names they released were Faf du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, Shardul Thakur and Josh Hazlewood. Heading into the IPL 2022 mega auction, they have a purse of Rs 48 crore remaining since they spent Rs 42 crore in retaining four players. Keeping in mind the same, we look at five players CSK could target at the auction in January.
One big purchase: Shikhar Dhawan (10-12 crore)
Faf du Plessis and Ruturaj Gaikwad formed an exceptional opening combination for CSK during IPL 2021. Both scored over 600-plus runs, and their excellent performance was one of the main reasons behind CSK’s title triumph. However, Chennai could only retain one of the two openers and, keeping the future in mind, they went for Gaikwad.
In the Chennai team, Shikhar Dhawan could be a good like-for-like replacement for Du Plessis. He has had two excellent seasons for Delhi Capitals in 2020 and 2021. The 35-year-old amassed 618 runs in 2020 and 587 runs in 2021. Though he may no longer be in the scheme of things in India’s T20 outfit, he is someone who can offer a lot as an opener in the IPL. The 35-year-old is very fit and only seems to be improving with age.
Elite purchases: Shardul Thakur, Shimron Hetmyer (6-8 crore)
The only reason CSK released Thakur was because they had no other choice. Given what he brings to the table, the franchise will surely be keen to have him back by trying to purchase him at the mega auction. The 30-year-old bowling all-rounder is at the peak of his powers. During the tour in England, he showed what he could do with bat and ball under adverse circumstances. When he returned to the UAE for IPL 2021, he was one of CSK’s star performers, claiming massive scalps game after game, including the final. He ended up as one of the top wicket-takers in IPL 2021.
Shimron Hetmyer is among the most aggressive young batters in world cricket at the moment. Although he wasn’t consistent for Delhi Capitals, he indicated his capabilities with a few blistering knocks. There was a stunning innings in the T20 World Cup as well. CSK would be very well aware that Hetmyer is a match-winner in the making. It won’t be surprising if the franchise goes for him, even if it means shelling out a little extra.
Decent purchases: Josh Hazlewood, Ravi Bishnoi (2-4 crore)
Like Thakur, CSK released Aussie pace bowler Josh Hazlewood only because they had to. Although he might go for a few, Hazlewood has proved that he can claim wickets at key intervals during big moments in the game. He wasn’t always a great T20 bowler, but the fast bowler has developed his skills. The improved version of Hazlewood was evident during both IPL 2021 and the T20 World Cup. The 30-year-old was among the team’s best bowlers in the finals of both the IPL and the T20 World Cup.
Among the young spinners, leggie Ravi Bishnoi looked highly promising and seemed to have a good attitude. The 21-year-old has featured in two IPL seasons for Punjab Kings (PBKS), claiming 12 wickets in both years. During IPL 2021 in the UAE, Bishnoi foxed quite a few decent batters with his guile. He can be groomed for the future, and CSK knows how to do that.