Luck hasn”t favored Pune in cash-rich IPL much. The earlier franchise from Pune used to struggle get themselves anywhere above the bottom of the table. The new franchise”s first summer was one they would not like to replicate.
Since the “one to forget” 2016 season, “Rising Pune Supergiant” as it is called now, has undergone hefty changes and is ready to go off and running in tenth edition of IPL.
Eyes were rubbed when RPS spent 14.5 crore out of their 17 crore purse on Ben Stokes. Then few days later eyebrows were raised when the franchise announced that they no longer require the services of Dhoni as captain and made Steve Smith their skipper. This may have caused at least 5-10% reduction in their fanbase. But anyways, that is the way forward for them now. They would hope Smith gets the best out of his boys and Pune put up a fight this season.
Strengths – Pune”s top order is as solid as a rock. In Rahane and Faf they have got two consistent openers. Their lower middle order is power packed compromising of Dhoni and Ben Stokes. Also they have got quality spinners in their ranks, the likes of Ashwin, Tahir, Zampa.
Weakness – Bowling was their Achilles heel last season and it continues to be so this time around as well. Spending 14.5 crore on Stokes meant they were short of funds when it came to buying good fast bowlers. There is no experienced fast bowler in this line up, neither Indian not overseas. It is believed that a lethal bowling attack can always make up for a fragile batting line up while the other way around is not always possible.
Players bought at the auction:
Ben Stokes, Daniel Christian , Lockie Feguson, Jaydev Unadkat, Rahul Chahar, Saurabh Kumar, Milind Tandon, Rahul Ajay Tripathi, Manoj Tiwary,
Players bought after the auction:
Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir
Probable XI – Ajinkya Rahane, Faf du Plessis, Steve Smith (C), Manoj Tiwary, MS Dhoni (WK), Ben Stokes, Rajat Bhatia, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jaydev Unadkat, Ashoke Dinda, Imran Tahir
Ajinkya Rahane, Faf du Plessis and Steve Smith make an obvious top 3. For no.4 slot they have option of Mayank Agarwal and Manoj Tiwary. Tiwary is likely to get the nod on the back of consistent performances in Vijay Hazare Trophy. Then the destructive lower-middle order of Dhoni and Ben Stokes to tear apart bowlers in death overs. Rajat Bhatia makes it to playing XI because of his ability to bowl cheap 4 overs without anyone noticing it.
Imran Tahir has been roped in as replacement for injured Mitchell Marsh and is likely to team up with Ashwin in spin department. As all the overseas slots are full they have to bank on their Indian fast bowlers. Ashoke Dinda and Jaydev Unadkat are likely to get the nod because of their international experience ahead of Shardul Thakur and Ishwar Pandey.
X-Factor – Ben Stokes” all round prowess.
Squad: Steve Smith (C), Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Faf du Plessis, Adam Zampa, Usman Khawaja, Ajinkya Rahane Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Ankush Bains, Rajat Bhatia, Ankit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Jaskaran Singh, Baba Aparajith, Deepak Chahar, Mayank Agarwal, Ben Stokes, Daniel Christian , Lockie Feguson, Jaydev Unadkat, Rahul Chahar, Saurabh Kumar, Milind Tandon, Rahul Ajay Tripathi, Manoj Tiwary, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir
– by Atharva Apte