With the World T20 done and dusted, the last of the many T20 series/tournaments this half of the year is the IPL. In its 9th edition, the IPL has some changes from its previous editions – the most notable one being the inclusion of the Rising Pune Supergiants (RPSG) and Gujarat Lions (GL). The expectations from the Pune team are already sky-high, mainly due to their captain MS Dhoni. So, here is an analytical preview of the RPSG, where their auction strategy and team composition would be decoded, the possible XIs discussed and their strengths and weaknesses indicated.
List of players bought by RPSG
List of players Pune bid for and opted out mid-way
Decoding their auction strategy
During the draft, the Pune team was clearly keen on buying specialist batsmen like Rahane, Smith, Du Plessis apart from Dhoni. Their very first pick in the main auction- Kevin Pietersen, just summed up the fact that they wanted a heavy batting line up. The reason behind such a mindset could be due to the fact that the pitch at the MCA stadium, Pune becomes more conducive for batting as the innings progresses. Moreover, they will also be playing in Mumbai, Bangalore and Mohali which have produced belters.
Now that their core batting was set, they then looked for reserve batsmen who could be their bench strength. They bid for Travis Head (overseas replacement), Karun Nair (Indian replacement), Ishan Kishan and Rishabh Pant (Wicket-keeper replacements), but had to withdraw mid-way as their prices sky-rocketed. By the end of the main phase of the auction, they hadn’t bought any reserve batsmen at all, meaning that they had to buy a few during the accelerated process. They didn’t have too many players to choose from and hence, had to settle with just 3 reserves- B.Aparajith (Indian), A.Bains (wk), P.Handscomb (Overseas WK). Though their regular batting lineup is absolutely deadly, they don’t have too many to call upon beyond them.
Now that the top-5 were sorted out, the think-tank were then on the lookout for quality all-rounders who could contribute both with the bat and the new ball, as the Pune pitch has purchase for the seamers early on. Hence, they filled up those slots with players like Irfan Pathan, M.Marsh and T.Perera.
Moving on to the bowlers, the team management had a problem at hand. There were already three overseas players in the top-five, and there were great chances of a foreign all-rounder being given the nod in the team, which meant that they might have had to field an all-Indian bowling attack. Hence, they were forced to buy about six Indian pacers including Ishant Sharma, RP Singh, Ashok Dinda, I. Pandey in order to settle the bench strength too. This meant that Scott Boland and Adam Zampa were the only overseas bowlers in the armory. After the auction, the team management roped in Saurabh Tiwary and Albie Morkel through the transfer window as they would have felt the need to increase the batting bench strength.
So, it can be concluded that the main strategy that the RPSG team management would have been targeting is to have a solid, destructive batting lineup and then select the rest of the players around them.
Possible starting XI
The top-five is pretty easy to figure out- Rahane and Du Plessis at the top followed by Smith, Pietersen and Dhoni. R. Ashwin would be a constant presence at no.8 and Dhoni always likes to play two spinners in his starting XI. Judging by the interest shown by the think-tank over the rookie leg-spinner Murugan Ashwin during the auction, where he was sold for a gargantuan 4.5 crores, he might be given at least few matches where he might have to bowl in tandem with his namesake.
Dhoni is someone who would want at least six bowling options by his side, which implies that he would require two all-rounders and two fast bowlers. In order to meet the foreigners limit, they would need to select one out of Pathan or Bhatia and one out of Perera, Marsh and Morkel.
Pathan has a dual dimension to his batting- can play sensibly and also play the big shots when needed. He is more than a useful bowler with his swing, seam and experience, and hence he might be selected over Bhatia at no.7.
A. Morkel hasn’t been in the thick of things in the T20 arena, and he is likely to be benched at least for the first few games. It now comes down to Marsh and Perera for the remaining all rounder spot.
Marsh just seems to have a slight edge over Perera performance-wise in International T20s in 2016. Adding to that, Marsh can bowl close to 140 kmph, has a bunch of deceptive cutters which can come in handy, and he is also an exceptional fielder. So, he might just make the cut for the no.6 spot.
Among the bowlers, Ishwar Pandey and RP Singh have produced some stellar performances in the recently-concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, picking up 12 scalps at 6.375 and 14 wickets at 6.13 respectively. Though they bowl in the mid 120’s, they have been extremely accurate in their line and lengths. RP Singh, with his angle and swing, can be an absolute asset to his captain. It won’t be surprising if they occupy the final 2 spots, considering that Dinda and Ishant haven’t been too successful in the shortest format of late.
Strengths and weakneses
- The deadly top-five can destroy any bowling attack on a given day, and the fans can expect good starts from their team on a consistent basis, which is essential for a team’s success.
- The all-rounders provide the perfect balance in the team. They act as an extension to the top-5 and also provide increased bowling options for the skipper.
- Presence of athletic fielders like Rahane, Smith, Du Plessis, Marsh can not only save runs but also instill a lot of positive team spirit among the players.
- MS Dhoni- One of his best traits is his man-management skills and the way he brings out the best in his players.
- The batting reserves consist of just 4 players. So, the team won’t have too many options for replacements in case of any injury, and that could prove to be a big handicap as the tournament progresses.
- Though there are seven pacers in total, there are few reliable match winners who Dhoni can rely upon to get the job done. But, as discussed earlier, Dhoni is someone who can utilize his resources brilliantly, however limited they may be.
All eyes will be on the Pune team when they take the field against the defending champions MI at the Wankhede. They have quite a strong team and an even bigger leader in MS Dhoni. But it remains to be seen as to how they fare in their debut season. One thing is for sure - an exciting and riveting season awaits the fans of RPSG and Dhoni.
Ravi Rampaul or Shane Shillingford? Who will take more wickets?
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