The season opener between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings will start at 7:30 pm IST

Guwahati: The highest wicket-taker in the IPL, Lasith Malinga, the second-highest run-getter in the IPL, Suresh Raina, and veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who have been such huge IPL icons for their respective franchises over the years, have opted out of the 2020 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Going in to the first game on Saturday evening, let’s see how the absence of these big names will be handled by the franchises as Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings face-off in the season opener.

LASITH MAINGA

The vast experience of the Sri Lankan veteran, Lasith Malinga, will be certainly missed by the Mumbai Indians as they take to the field as the defending champions tonight. The 37-year-old Malinga has stepped up for the Mumbai Indians in multiple occasions, and is known as the master tactician. Malinga, who usually bowls the tough overs for Mumbai, both in the powerplay and in the death, delivered the deciding over in the previous year’s IPL final, helping Mumbai to an unprecedented fourth IPL title.

Also Read: IPL 2020: Big blow for Mumbai Indians; Malinga to miss entire season

Who will fill in?

The defending champions have signed the Australian pacer James Pattinson as the replacement for Malinga, but Pattinson is yet to make his IPL debut. Pattinson brings in the extra pace factor with him and hits the deck hard, so natural to an Aussie. But with Quinton de Kock and Pollard being a certain in the playing XI, with Trent Boult also pretty sure with recent form, Pattinson might have to sit out in the season opener as Mitch McClenaghan and Nathan Coulter-Nile tussle it out for the remaining overseas slot.

Malinga is the highest wicket taker in IPL, with 170 wickets at an average of 7.14

SURESH RAINA

Raina is the go-to man for at No. 3 for the Chennai Super Kings, and with Raina missing only one match during the whole ten seasons with CSK, the franchise has never had to look beyond him. But, now with Raina back in India, the CSK has a massive shoe to fill in his spot. Be it with the bat at the top, the lightning speed in the outfield, or those cheeky overs in the middle.

Also Read: Suresh Raina to miss IPL 2020, returns home due to personal reasons

Who will fill in?

Although the Super Kings haven’t yet named a replacement for the dashing southpaw, India A batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad is expected to be a suitable replacement at No. 3. But, Gaikwad, after testing positive for the deadly coronavirus earlier this month is still serving his isolation period and hasn’t yet got the clearance from the BCCI to join the team. This, means the youngster won’t be a part of the season opener tonight, which leaves the CSK with Ambati Rayudu to likely take up the job at No. 3.

This is the first time that Suresh Raina will miss an entire IPL season since the inception of the tournament in 2008

HARBHAJAN SINGH

The veteran India off-spinner, Harbhajan Singh, with his accuracy, has been a central to the Super Kings’ bowling attack in the past two seasons. Singh has an impressive record bowling in the powerplay for the Super Kings. Singh claimed 11 wickets in 16 innings with a miserly economy of 8.40 bowling in the powerplay in the last two seasons. Singh is also the only bowler to have an economy rate less than 7.5 in eight IPL editions.

Also Read: IPL 2020: Harbhajan to miss entire season; cites personal reasons

Who will fill in?

Although the Chennai Super Kings have a number of spinners in the form of leg-spinners Piyush Chawla and Karn Sharma, and left-arm finger spinner Sai Kishore in their squad, the Yellow army lacks a specialist off-spinner in their line-up, leaving a huge hole on Singh’s exit from the tournament. Therefore, going into the first game against the defending champions tonight, the CSK will not have a proper replacement of Harbhajan in their line-up, but moving ahead with tournament, if the CSK sees the need for a proper off-spinner in their roster, Jalaj Saxena, who was a part of the Delhi Capitals squad last season, might be a good option to consider a ike-for-like replacement for Harbhajan.

Harbhajan earlier withdrew his contract with the Chennai Super Kings for ‘personal reasons’ ahead of the IPL 2020

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