Former South Africa all-rounder Albie Morkel feels Suresh Raina's absence in the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL) will leave a massive gap in the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) team and that the franchise would have to make changes in batting order to get their balance right for the tournament starting on Saturday.
Raina, who has played 193 games for CSK, accumulating more than 5,000 runs, last month opted out of IPL due to "personal reasons". He had travelled with the team to the United Arab Emirates but has since returned to India in a controversial manner.
"He (Raina) has been a run machine for them and electric in the field, so (his absence) will leave a massive gap," Morkel told IANS in an exclusive interview. "They (CSK) will probably have to make a few changes now to cover for him and get the balance of the team right."
Much of the focus on this year's IPL will be on MS Dhoni as it would be the first time he would take the field after the ICC World Cup in England where India reached the semi-finals. Dhoni has been on a sabbatical since then and on August 15, he announced retirement from international cricket.
Morkel showered praise on Dhoni. "I enjoyed my time at CSK the most. We had six very successful years, but apart from that the group of players really got along. Dhoni was the cornerstone of our success. He is someone who leads by example," he said. "He is obviously very skillful in what he does, but also has the ability to stay calm under immense pressure. Other players reach their 'breaking points' before him. He knows that and takes full advantage of that."
On South African cricket, the 39-year-old player said that Dean Elgar should lead the Proteas in Test cricket while wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock continues with his leadership duties in the limited-overs format. de Kock, 27, had replaced Faf du Plessis as ODI skipper in January this year. Later, it was announced that de Kock would not be elevated to Test captaincy.
"South Africa don't have many experienced leaders in the set-up. Aiden Markram has been earmarked for the future, but needs to find stability in his game," said Morkel who has played one Test, 58 ODIs and 50 T20Is for the Proteas. "My pick would be Elgar. He is a gutsy and established player and has a good cricket brain. He is a perfect guy to guide us through this tough time."