CSK’s headache: Stokes or Conway? Hyderabad’s headache: how to play spin

Lost, won, won, lost, won. This has been a stop-start season so far for the Chennai Super Kings, who have been hampered with injuries like never before. Just five matches into their Indian Premier League season, they have ended up using all the eight available overseas players, which is very uncharacteristic of them as they don’t like to tinker with their XI unless otherwise forced.

Chennai Super Kings batters Devon Conway and Shivam Dube. (PTI Photo)

As they gear up to face Sunrisers Hyderabad at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Friday, there is still a bit of uncertainty about their ideal overseas combination. One of their biggest headaches has been Ben Stokes, who hasn’t played because of a toe injury since their second match. So far, with their overseas imports arriving at various points, the Super Kings have used a horses for courses policy, but with everyone in hut now, there are some tough decisions to take.

And top most among will be who to bench in case Stokes is fit and available. In their two practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, Stokes was seen bowling at full throttle, showing no signs of discomfort. And with the bat, he was striking crisply, mostly going over the arc between mid-wicket and cover, as Mike Hussey gave extensive throwdowns. If Stokes is available, then the Super Kings have to decide on not just where he bats, but also in who’s place he makes the cut. Before the tournament, making Stokes open alongside Ruturaj Gaikwad seemed the most likely option as he would not only get more deliveries to face, but it would also keep him away from starting against spinners. But in the five matches, Conway has looked the part with scores of 1, 47, 0, 50, 83, giving the team electric starts at the top and has looked comfortable against pace and spin.

The other overseas batter, Moeen Ali – who has been pushed down the order to accommodate Ajinkya Rahane at No 3 — hasn’t got going so far with the bat. But unlike the past couple of seasons where he batted at No 3 or 4, his role has changed a bit this season where he is used primarily in the end overs to provide the finishing touches. And at home conditions, MS Dhoni counts on him to deliver four overs of his off-spin, which sort of makes his spot locked.

In the last match against Royal Challengers Bangalore, the two remaining overseas slots were taken by the Sri Lankan duo of Maheesh Theekshana and Matheesh Pathirana. One a mystery spinner and the other a specialist in the death overs, both are integral to Chennai in different ways, particularly because they strengthen an otherwise inexperienced attack. With Deepak Chahar still sidelined with a leg injury, Chennai need both, which means it could once again come down Conway vs Stokes.

On the eve of the match, there was no clarity if Stokes would play on Friday.

Hyderabad test

As far as Sunrisers Hyderabad go, this is another stern test for them. Having got off to successive defeats in the first two matches, they bounced with two commanding wins. But lost to Mumbai Indians at home on Tuesday to come crashing down. Although the side is not short on firepower, Hyderabad have lacked in terms of finding the right balance. For instance, to accommodate Harry Brook at the top – who isn’t fluent best against spinners – they pushed Abhishek Sharma down the order. And similarly, have not used Washington Sundar’s potential with the bat.

IPL 2023 Sunrisers Hyderabad players during an Indian Premier League (IPL) match. (AP Photo)

Despite having all the pieces together, Hyderabad are still figuring out which one would complete their puzzle. To make it more complicated, they would face plenty of spin test in Chennai, something that has troubled the Sunrisers in the past, especially their overseas batting imports who make the backbone of their batting line-up.

“Obviously, we have to appreciate the fact that they are really good spinners as well and when conditions allow for the ball to spin, they become even better. So we’ll have to have our plans in place. We’ve had some good meetings and I think throughout the competition so far, our playing of spin has fortunately improved. It’s not a finished package yet, but at least it’s a good sign for us in terms of improvement with regards to planning,” Aiden Markram, Sunrisers Hyderabad captain said. Hyderabad, though, will be banking on two of their local boys Washington and T Natarajan to turn up just like how R Ashwin did against the Chennai Super Kings last week.


  • Adam Gray

    Adam Gray is an experienced journalist with a passion for breaking news and delivering it to the masses. With over a decade of experience in the field, he has covered everything from local stories to national events, earning a reputation for his accuracy, reliability, and attention to detail. As a reporter, Adam is always on the lookout for the next big story, and his dedication to uncovering the truth has earned him the respect of his peers and readers alike. When he's not chasing down leads, Adam can be found poring over the latest headlines, always on the lookout for the next big scoop. Contact [email protected]