Dhoni misses CSK training session

The welcome news for CSK was that Suresh Raina had a stint at the nets without any discomfort. The aggressive southpaw is a key player for the side and he could be available for the duel against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday.

Chennai Super Kings skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni receives treatment for a sore back while batting against Kings XI Punjab. The captain skipped his team's training session.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

They had been forced out of their bastion. And here were the exiled Chennai Super Kings, at a new ‘home,’ attempting to put the pieces together again.

Despite their recent travails — having to move away from their den at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium was never going to be easy — the mood was light during the CSK practise session at a windy, open stadium on the outskirts of the city here.

The popular side was without its King though. Missing from the session was CSK’s charismatic captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He had hurt his back during a thrill-a-minute 44-ball unbeaten 79 against Kings XI Punjab that almost enabled CSK pull off a heist at Mohali.

Read: Don’t need to use my back, arms can do the job, says MSD

It was a vintage Dhoni blitzkrieg but there was a price to pay. Back injuries can be troublesome. If Dhoni is to perform the dual role of ‘keeping wickets and then launching into the bowling with the willow, his back should be able to withstand the load.

The CSK camp was tight-lipped about Dhoni’s fitness. Will the side risk him in the game against Rajasthan Royals here on Friday with a lot still left in this edition of the IPL?

There is a possibility that Dhoni might play only as a batsman, opening the door for N. Jagadeesan to don the big gloves. Or could Ambati Rayudu be given the job as a makeshift ‘keeper?

The inspirational Dhoni is the nerve centre of the side — his captaincy is influential — and CSK would be hoping that its skipper recovers quickly.

Watch: Five CSK players who've donned the Pune jersey

And knowing Dhoni’s mental fortitude and his astonishing comebacks from fitness concerns, you can never say never.

The welcome news for CSK was that Suresh Raina had a stint at the nets without any discomfort. The aggressive southpaw is a key player for the side and CSK had initially said he would be out for two games because of a calf muscle strain; this meant Raina would only be available for the duel against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday.

But then, given the injury issues in the CSK batting line-up — Kedar Jadhav has been ruled out, Dhoni is racing against time and Faf du Plessis still has a fitness question mark — could Raina be fielded ahead of schedule against the Royals?

And the surface here could offer bounce and some movement — a strong breeze often blows across the stadium enabling swing — to the pacemen and CSK will need to rework its bowling strategy.

The focus could shift to pace from spin — the side’s strength — and it’s easy to see why moving away from Chepauk to a new ‘home’ will be so challenging. CSK needs its King in these times.