Mumbai, Dec 1: Former CSK wicket-keeper batsman Robin Uthappa was in praise of ‘stalwart’ Suresh Raina and believes that Chennai Super Kings will pick the former India international as the first choice in the IPL Mega Auction.

CSK announced their retained players in MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Moeen Ali and Ruturaj Gaikwad, leaving out Raina from the fray.

Raina, fondly known as ‘Chinna Thala’, has been a member of the franchise since the inception of IPL in 2008. But in 2021, Raina, who is the fourth-highest run-getter in IPL with 5528 runs, was a shadow of his pulverizing best, scoring just 160 runs in 12 matches at a strike rate of 125 and was ruled out of later stages of CSK’s winning run in IPL 2021 due to left knee injury.

“He’s I think the biggest stalwart of CSK that we’ve had. He’s been such an instrumental figure in helping CSK qualify to so many of the knockout stages in the last 10-12 years. So, Suresh (Suresh Raina) has been a vital cog in the wheel, so I think he will be the first guy they will go after,” said Uthappa on ‘IPL Retention’ show on Star Sports.

He also felt that CSK will go after Faf du Plessis as well and also explained why Moeen Ali was preferred over the South Africa batter as the lone overseas pick in the retentions announced by the reigning IPL champions. “Having said that, it must have been really difficult to let go of Faf but, I think the only thing that pegged it towards Mo (Moeen Ali) was the fact that he is a two-dimensional player, with both the skills, and unfortunately, they had to make that choice and they would definitely want to retain a player with two skills. But I am certain that they will go after Faf because he has been incredible for CSK over the past 5 or 6 years.”

The 36-year-old also expressed surprise at opener Shikhar Dhawan and pacer Kagiso Rabada not being retained by Delhi Capitals. The IPL 2020 finalists instead retained Prithvi Shaw and Anrich Nortje along with Axar Patel and Rishabh Pant.

“About Shikhar, for sure. He has done so exceptionally well for them. It was a no-brainer. I thought Kagiso Rabada would be a no-brainer. If they had both, Kagiso and Anrich Nortje, you essentially have your fast bowling set up and then you go for another couple of Indian fast bowlers and then you have your bowling line-up set up and that was a very dangerous bowling line-up, a match-winning bowling line-up. And even up there, we know how dangerous Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan can be, so the fact that they have let go of one from that pair is actually quite surprising,” concluded Uthappa.

(With Inputs From IANS)