Pawan Negi starred in the CLT20 2014 final for the Chennai Super Kings    PTI (File Photo)
Pawan Negi starred in the CLT20 2014 final for the Chennai Super Kings PTI (File Photo)

Ravichandran Ashwin has picked up only six wickets in IPL 2015, but is one of the key figures in the bowling line-up for Chennai Super Kings (CSK). He picked up a finger injury in the match against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Tuesday, which will keep him out for at least the next couple of games. Pramod Ananth feels Ashwin s absence could pave way for others.

CSK topped the IPL 2015 table after their nail-biting two-run win over KKR on Tuesday. Ashwin did pick up two vital wickets, but suffered an injury and as a result could bowl only a couple of overs in the match. But Ashwin s role in the team goes beyond just picking up wickets. With Ashish Nehra taking wickets at a rapid pace, Ashwin s efforts in the IPL 2015 has gone unrecognised. After Nehra, It is Ashwin who s had the best economy rate for CSK. READ: R Ashwin to miss two games due to injury

Ashwin is called on to bowl when skipper MS Dhoni is in desperate need of wicket or at a time when there is a need to control the run flow. Ashwin has often bowled in the powerplay overs as well and has come out with flying colours so far. His spin partner Ravindra Jadeja, on the other hand has not been that successful. Jadeja has gone well over eight an over in this season and has picked up only five wickets, with three of them coming in a single game. READ: Dwayne Bravo feels he performs best under pressure

Having said this Ashwin had three games where he went wicketless and conceded a lot of runs. Dhoni thus had to depend on other bowlers to do the job for him. CSK would have wanted Ashwin to step up especially against Rajasthan Royals, where RR were set a target of 157. READ: Kolkata Knight Riders vs Chennai Super Kings, IPL 2015 Preview

Shane Watson and Ajinkya Rahane were set by the time Ashwin came on to bowl. After playing his first over cautiously, they exploded in his next over. He had ordinary games against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Mumbai Indians (MI) too, but the depth in CSK s bowling made up for his below par performances.

Looking at CSK s squad, they do have a couple of spinners that could be ideal replacements for Ashwin. One of them is Rahul Sharma. With 40 wickets in 44 matches in the IPL at an economy of seven, Rahul is certainly an excellent option. He burst into the scene after some impressive performances for Pune Warriors India (PWI). A string of impressive performances gave Rahul his maiden India call-up.

Another name that comes to mind is the slow left-am orthodox option of Pawan Negi. He made a name for himself when he took a five-wicket haul for CSK in the Champions League T20 (CLT20) final in 2014, which included wickets of Robin Uthappa and Jacques Kallis as well. The 22-year old can gain a lot of experience by playing a game or two in Ashwin s absence.

CSK have fast bowling options at their disposal as well. If Dhoni decides to have Ravindra Jadeja as his main spinner, with Suresh Raina bowling his part-time off-spinners, Irfan Pathan could also be an ideal choice, if fit. He has wealth of experience under his belt and the left-arm pace bowler could be handy. With 80 wickets in 98 games in the IPL, having represented Delhi Daredevils (DD), Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), Pathan is certainly one of the most experienced players CSK have in their squad.

Dhoni generally does not like to change a winning combination as we have seen in the past, but this is a change that he cannot avoid. This is an excellent time to test out his bench strength. With plenty of games still left in the tournament, this might probably be the right time to do so.

(Pramod Ananth is a reporter at CricketCountry. He has represented Karnataka table tennis under-15, and is a hardcore supporter of Liverpool FC. His Twitter handle is @pramz)