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MS Dhoni on injury list with CSK 'operating on pretty thin resources'

Captain managing knee injury says coach Stephen Fleming, with Sisanda Magala, Deepak Chahar, Ben Stokes and Simarjeet Singh currently on the sidelines

Deivarayan Muthu
Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni is nursing a knee injury, according to head coach Stephen Fleming, which is hindering his running between the wickets. During Super Kings' unsuccessful chase against Rajasthan Royals at home on Wednesday, Dhoni didn't run at full tilt, which was also the case during Super Kings' intra-squad practice game in the lead-up to the IPL. During Super Kings' pre-season camp in Chennai, he was often spotted wearing a knee cap.
"He is nursing a knee injury, which you can see in some of his movement, which is hindering him somewhat," Fleming said after the game. "But still what you saw today is a great player for us. His fitness has always been very professional."
Despite his knee troubles, Dhoni has been in excellent ball-striking form this season. On Wednesday, he smashed an unbeaten 32 off 17 balls and dragged Super Kings' chase of 176 right down to the last ball. Overall this season, Dhoni has hit 58 runs in three innings at a strike rate of almost 215, including six sixes and two fours. Even at the nets, Dhoni has been regularly launching the ball over the boundaries.
Fleming brushed aside any concerns around Dhoni's fitness and lauded him for the way he manages himself ahead of an IPL season.
"He comes a month before the tournament starts, so he doesn't get the opportunity to do a lot [before that]," Fleming said. "He will stay fit, they will do some netting in Ranchi, but his main pre-season [fitness] is done a month before when he comes to Chennai. And he works his way back into match-form and I think you can still see he's playing pretty well. So we never have any doubts about the way he manages himself and he always gets himself up to speed."

Sisanda Magala out of action for at least two weeks

Fleming, though, is concerned by the mounting injuries in the seam attack. South Africa fast bowler Sisanda Magala bowled only two overs against Royals before leaving the field with a split webbing. He is set to be out for at least two weeks. He had incidentally joined the Super Kings squad as a replacement player after New Zealand's Kyle Jamieson had been ruled out of the entire tournament due to injury. Super Kings are already without left-arm seamer Mukesh Choudhary who will also miss the entire IPL season.
The latest injury to Magala is a substantial blow to Super Kings' chances, especially away from home, because his yorkers and slower variations offer a potent point of difference. Magala is also capable of big hits down the order. The only other specialist overseas seamer in Super Kings' squad is Matheesha Pathirana, who had arrived in Chennai from New Zealand on Monday night, but he has just recovered from Covid-19. Maheesh Theekshana, the other Sri Lankan, slotted into Super Kings' XI right away and came away with 0 for 42 in his four overs against Royals.
"For us again, it's losing another player - that's two games in a row - and we're already pretty thin, so we'd like it [injuries] to stop," Fleming said. "Magala's hand was split unfortunately, so he was unable to bowl those last two overs. And same with Deepak Chahar in the last game, so we're operating on pretty thin resources. But we're not the only team to have that."

Deepak Chahar two-three weeks away from returning

Super Kings had lost Chahar to a hamstring injury just one over into their game against Mumbai Indians. According to Fleming, he's two-three weeks away from returning to action.
Seamer Simarjeet Singh, who had missed almost the whole of the last Indian domestic season with injury, is still recovering too.
On Monday, Simarjeet had a nets session but often missed his run-up and lacked the rhythm that had impressed Dhoni and Fleming last season. He hasn't played any competitive T20 cricket since the last IPL.
"I think a lot of players coming out of a big domestic season are a little bit broken, but we just keep having to find solutions," Fleming said. "So we'll do that in the next four days. But yeah, it's not ideal yet. The captain has to then think on his feet [if bowlers keep getting injured]. Moeen Ali had to come back [after Magala hurt his webbing] and he hadn't had a great day [but] he got the wicket of [Jos] Buttler which was good. And you've got young players like Akash [Singh] who is coming in for his first game, having to bowl some key overs. It's not how we plan but T20 very rarely goes to plan."
Former India coach Ravi Shastri recently expressed his frustration at the frequent and recurring injuries plaguing India's bowlers. Shastri's comments came while discussing the injury to Chahar.
"Let's put it this way: there are quite a few in the last three or four years who are permanent residents of the National Cricket Academy," Shastri said on ESPNcricinfo's T20 Time:Out show. "Soon, they'll get a resident permit there to walk in any time they want, which is not a good thing at all. It's unreal."

Ben Stokes being assessed on a day-to-day basis

Ben Stokes, Super Kings' INR 16.5 crore pick at the auction last December, had been ruled out of Saturday night's game against Mumbai with a minor toe injury. It is understood to be unrelated to his ongoing knee problem. Stokes had played only a minor part in Super Kings' warm-ups in both Mumbai and tonight in Chennai.
Moeen Ali had also sat out of the game against Mumbai, with a stomach bug, but returned tonight against Royals.
Super Kings have a five-day break before they face Royal Challengers Bangalore in Bengaluru on April 17.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo