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News Analysis

Who will fill in for Lasith Malinga, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh in IPL?

Finding players to perform the roles these giants did will not be an easy task for their franchises

Deivarayan Muthu
Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina hadn't played much cricket since the last IPL  •  BCCI

Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina hadn't played much cricket since the last IPL  •  BCCI

Lasith Malinga, the highest wicket-taker in the IPL, and Suresh Raina, the second-highest run-getter in the league, have both opted out of the 2020 season in the UAE. In addition to these two and Harbhajan Singh, who are all such huge IPL icons, Chris Woakes and Jason Roy have also pulled out of the tournament. ESPNcricinfo looks at how their absence could impact their franchises.
His role
Raina at No. 3 is usually set in stone for the Chennai Super Kings, and he has missed just one match during his ten seasons at the franchise. He has now gone back home to India, but hasn't quite ruled out a return to the Super Kings camp during the course of the tournament.
Back in the day, Raina was a dasher at one-drop, merrily extending his arms and launching both seamers and spinners over his favourite extra-cover region. In recent years, Raina's form at the Super Kings had cooled off, and he might not be the force he once was, but was a key part of the Super Kings plans.
Filling the gap
The Super Kings haven't named a replacement for him yet, but Maharashtra and India A batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad, who is believed to have impressed MS Dhoni at the Chepauk camp in March earlier this year, is being talked up as a possible No. 3. If Gaikwad isn't the preferred choice, Ambati Rayudu is likely to take up the job, with Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis set to open the innings.
If teams tend to attack Super Kings' band of right-hand batsmen with legspin, they could look to separate them by bumping Ravindra Jadeja or Sam Curran or Mitchell Santner up the order. Jadeja has actually batted at No. 3 in the past, just four times, hitting 91 runs at a strike rate of 140. Curran, too, has batted there in eight innings, making 230 runs at a strike rate of nearly 144 - and he had also opened the batting once for Kings XI Punjab last IPL. In the 2017 T20 Blast in England, Santner was also promoted up the order to No. 3 by Worcestershire.
His role
In the first qualifier against Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2018, Dhoni didn't use Singh as a bowler at all. However, overall, Singh's accuracy has been central to Super Kings' attack in the past two seasons. He was often Dhoni's go-to spinner in the powerplay, claiming 11 wickets in 16 innings during that phase at an economy rate of 8.40. Not to forget all the experience and consistency; he is the only bowler to have an economy rate of less than 7.5 in eight IPL seasons.
Filling the gap
While the Super Kings have a variety of options to replace Raina within their squad itself, they don't have a specialist offspinner in their roster to fill the Singh-sized hole. However, they do have legspinners Piyush Chawla and Karn Sharma, and left-arm fingerspinner R Sai Kishore in the group. Tamil Nadu spinners M Abhinav (legspinner) and Aushik Srinivas (left-arm fingerspinner) are in the net-bowling contingent, but neither of them bowl offspin. Jalaj Saxena, who was part of the Delhi Capitals last year, could be good like-for-like replacement for Singh, if the Super Kings are looking for one.
His role
Mumbai have a surfeit of top-notch pace options in their set-up - Trent Boult can swing the new ball, Mitchell McClenaghan thrives on bowling in the powerplay, Jasprit Bumrah is a world beater, Hardik Pandya is working his way back from injury, and there are Nathan Coulter-Nile and Dhawal Kulkarni in the mix too. However, they are most certainly going to miss Malinga's vast experience and big-game pedigree. The 37-year-old has stepped up for Mumbai in multiple finals and is also known as a master tactician much like his captain Rohit Sharma. Malinga usually bowls the tough overs - both in the powerplay and at the death - last delivering Mumbai an unprecedented fourth title.
Filling the gap
Mumbai have signed James Pattinson as Malinga's replacement, but the Australia quick is yet to make his IPL debut (although he has been part of the Kolkata Knight Riders before). Pattinson brings with him extra pace and hit-the-deck bustle, which could prove effective even on the traditionally sluggish tracks in the UAE. With Quinton de Kock and Kieron Pollard being certain starters among the overseas names, McClenaghan, Boult, Coulter-Nile and Pattinson will have to tussle for the other two slots.
His role
Woakes was largely used as a death-bowling allrounder by Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Knight Riders. Fourteen of his 25 wickets in the IPL have come in the last five overs. In the pre-pandemic world, Kagiso Rabada had been ruled out of the India tour earlier this year owing to injury, and might not have been available had the IPL happened at its original slot. So the Capitals would have looked at Woakes as a first XI option. Plus, being a capable batsman lower down the order, Woakes would likely have played a few matches with teams likely to rotate their players considering the heat in the UAE.
Filling the gap
Rabada is now fit and the Capitals have drafted in Anrich Nortje as Woakes' replacement. Nortje had missed IPL 2019 for the Knight Riders, and then the World Cup because of a shoulder injury, but he's also back, and can regularly clock speeds north of 140kph. So Woakes' absence might not be too big a setback for the Capitals.

Others to give IPL 2020 a miss

Jason Roy: He is huge for England in white-ball cricket, but would have found it hard to get in the XI for the Capitals, who have Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane and Shreyas Iyer as their Indian opening options. The team played it smart by picking up Australian left-arm quick Daniel Sams in Roy's place.
Kane Richardson: The Australian quick wanted to be home for the birth of his first child, and legspinner Adam Zampa has stepped in for Royal Challengers Bangalore. A sensible move from the team, with all matches to be played on slower pitches across the UAE.
Harry Gurney: A shoulder injury has put Gurney out of action, and the Knight Riders might miss him, though they have Pat Cummins and Lockie Ferguson in their ranks. Crucially for the team, they will have Chris Green available - there were question marks over his action, but he's bowling, and bowling very well, in the CPL.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo