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Four youngsters who could provide the 'spark' for Chennai Super Kings

From R Sai Kishore to KM Asif, the Super Kings have some potential match-winners in their ranks

Deivarayan Muthu
Ruturaj Gaikwad has scored more List A runs than anyone for India A in the last two years  •  Karnataka State Cricket Association

Ruturaj Gaikwad has scored more List A runs than anyone for India A in the last two years  •  Karnataka State Cricket Association

After the Chennai Super Kings crashed to their seventh defeat in ten games, their captain MS Dhoni said that he hasn't yet seen that "kind of spark" in the youngsters to push the seniors out of the XI. With the road to the play-offs looking difficult, both Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming have indicated they will give the youngsters in the reserves a run in their last four matches. Here's a rundown of the younger options available for the ageing Super Kings team.
Age: 23
Role: Top-order batsman
Who could he potentially replace: Kedar Jadhav or Ambati Rayudu
Why should he be picked?
Having recovered successfully from Covid-19 at the outset of the IPL, Gaikwad made his IPL debut, which was far from striking as he was stumped for a duck. He played another match, and managed just five runs. Both those innings were the only times Gaikwad has batted in the middle order. Otherwise, his natural role has been as a top-order batsman: he has opened or batted at No.3 in 28 out of 30 innings. Gaikwad has been a prolific performer for India A in List A cricket, with centuries at home and near-centuries in the Caribbean and New Zealand. All of his 843 runs for India A have come at the top.
With 'Project Sam Curran' not quite taking off at the top, the Super Kings could test out Gaikwad as an opener with Faf du Plessis or Shane Watson and instead use Curran as a middle-order floater once again.
Age: 24
Role: Wicketkeeper-opener, can also float in the middle order
Who could he potentially replace: Kedar Jadhav or Ambati Rayudu
Why should he be picked?
Jagadeesan got his IPL gig in 2018 on the back of his heavy run-scoring at the top in the 20-over Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL). He was handed his IPL debut this year, against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Batting at No.4, above Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Curran, and Dwayne Bravo, Jagadeesan showed signs of intent and innovation during his 33 off 28 balls in a tall chase of 170.
Jagadeesan, like Gaikwad, isn't a power-hitter, but unlike Gaikwad, he has floated in the middle order for his state side Tamil Nadu in T20 cricket. In the 2018 Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, when Dinesh Karthik batted up the order, Jagadeesan made some useful cameos in the middle. He usually builds his innings with singles and doubles and accelerates with chips over the infield or sweeps and reverse-sweeps behind the wicket. Can he become a S Badrinath-like player for the Super Kings in the future?
Age: 23
Role: Left-arm fingerspinner who can bowl in the powerplay and middle overs
Who could he potentially replace: Piyush Chawla
Why should he be picked?
If the Super Kings are to bring in Sai Kishore and bench Chawla, they might have to throw in their more experienced and versatile legspinner Imran Tahir into the mix, too, in place of seamer Josh Hazlewood. Sai Kishore attacked the stumps in the powerplay and also found turn, of the quicker variety, to trouble batsmen in the most-recent Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, where he was the highest wicket-taker. His economy rate of 4.63 was also the best among bowlers who had delivered at least 20 overs in the tournament. The Mumbai Indians have Quinton de Kock in the top and Ishan Kishan and Krunal Pandya in the middle order to disrupt the left-arm spinner, so Sai Kishore could be a better bet against the potentially right-hander heavy Royal Challengers.
Age: 27
Role: Fast bowler who can clock 140kph
Who could he potentially replace: Shardul Thakur or Deepak Chahar
Why should he be picked?
Bowling has been the Super Kings' strongest suit this season, but if they opt to rest Shardul Thakur or Deepak Chahar, Kerala quick Asif could be an option. While Asif can hit 140kph and bowl yorkers, he is still raw and only 10 T20s old. He played two games for the Super Kings on the quicker pitches at the MCA Stadium in Pune and at the Eden Gardens in 2018, returning 2 for 43 and 1 for 32 respectively.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo