‘Rising Pune Supergiants will need to be tactically shrewd’
This is the franchise’s first season.
Rising Pune Supergiants have already attracted a massive fan base by successfully completing their first order of business post-establishment – appoint MS Dhoni as captain, currently one of the world’s most influential sportspersons. Mathematically, there was a 50% chance they would have acquired his services anyway, but it seems that the rest of the squad has been intricately built around him. Supergiants splurged on consistency rather than the T20 icon players that hogged the auction limelight. Three of their four most expensive purchases – Kevin Pietersen, Ishant Sharma and Mitchell Marsh – were bought for a combined 12.10 crores, but their insistence on legspinner M Ashwin (4.5 crores) provided many with a compelling point for the failure to fathom IPL auctions.
The batting core, on paper, is as strong as any other’s in the competition. The brains behind the operation – Faf du Plessis, Steven Smith and Dhoni, all T20I captains – will be tasked with carrying out consolidation or score-amplifying duties, much like their roles in their national teams. In a game of fatally fine margins, will their similar styles prove to be a boon or bane?
The bowling, on the other hand, seems carefully assembled for slow surfaces, akin to that of Chennai Super Kings. Much of that same CSK flavor has been retained by the appointment of Stephen Fleming as head coach. R Ashwin, Albie Morkel and Ishwar Pandey will not do much to take that method of cricket away from the Supergiants brand either. Will the Pune pitch, which was a track that closely resembled the outfield for the T20I against Sri Lanka in February, live up to the franchise’s expectations?
Rising Supergiants’ set-up bears a striking resemblance to MS Dhoni’s previous franchise, Chennai Super Kings © AFP
Before the tournament itself, the Supergiants seem to have adopted a sluggish template, with the approach to have potent, equipped batsmen to counter two-paced pitches. Despite the presence of Marsh and Dhoni, do they have enough explosive firepower in the middle-lower order to tackle the “bigger” sides in alien conditions, and help achieve the unthinkable targets that T20s are getting increasingly accustomed to?
The go-to men
Kevin Pietersen’s form prior to the IPL auction got many questioning the England selectors’ acumen and player management In a combined 16 games in the Ram Slam and Big Bash League, Pietersen scored 724 runs at an average of 55.69 and a strike rate of 166.43. Also, his stint with the Quetta Gladiators in the PSL would have, undoubtedly, prepared Pietersen for a possibly grueling season on potentially tough surfaces.
Barring Ashok Dinda, Ishant Sharma is the closest entity to genuine pace in this squad. Ishant isn’t part of India’s T20 plans and has therefore been allowed to time to train in the months leading up to the IPL. Although sparingly effective at keeping the runs down, Ishant provides a different perspective to this side with his pace and wicket-taking prowess.
Rajat Bhatia has been described in more ways than he would care for, but his cunning variations in pace and control over his craft have made him a handful in the IPL. Sixteen years since making his debut, Bhatia completed 100 first-class matches this season. Having played every year since the IPL’s inception for various teams, Bhatia will be a useful lower-order cog to Dhoni and his team. Supergiants picked up the allrounder for INR 60 lakhs, double his base price, and it remains to be seen if other teams will regret not having bid for one of the tournament’s under-the-radar superstars.
No injury concerns.
Head coach – Stephen Fleming, Assistant coach – Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Bowling coach – Eric Simons, Performance analyst – Prasanna Agoram
“I understand that too many chefs can make things messy, but believe me when you have someone like MS Dhoni, there is no question who is in control.”
Rising Pune Supergiants head coach Stephen Fleming
Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo