The best T20 action – Indian Premier League (IPL) is about to hit your nearest screens. Oh wait, before that, IPL got hit majorly when owners of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) got involved in the match-fixing scandal, leading to Supreme Court banning both teams from IPL for 2 years.
New teams in the form of Pune and Rajkot came in and some of the major players from both the banned teams were drafted into these new-comers. IPL Draft was held on December 15, 2015, which meant both teams could choose 5 players each from the banned teams to form their core group of players.
With the draft ending, the core of both teams looked something like this –
Pune – MS Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Steven Smith (foreigner) and Faf du Plessis (foreigner)
Rajkot – Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum (foreigner), James Faulkner (foreigner), Dwayne Bravo (foreigner)
Taking up the Pune team first, the core looks pretty strong on paper. With the Indian captain MS Dhoni, opening batsman Rahane, world-class spinner Ashwin, Australian captain Steven Smith, and South African captain du Plessis by their side, there remains loads of experience and talent from around the world. Leadership skills would be a major plus point here with the inclusion of 3 captains of their respective nations would be huddling together in one team. Going for strategy and play-making, Pune have a very strong batsman in the form of Rahane who has been a flourishing one for RR in the past. Du Plessis has also made a mark in the domestic league with his stint in CSK. Both du Plessis and Rahane could form the opening pair for Pune. Wicketkeeping? No searching for any alternatives as captain cool is present here. Also known as the best finisher around the world, he can provide a big boost for his new team from either side of the stumps. The inclusion of Australian Captain Smith would ensure balls don’t reach the field so easily with his super-human abilities in the field coming of assistance. His unusual but big shots can come very handy if the situation goes worse as Dhoni and Smith could combine to form a formidable pair of best finishers. Bowling has also been taken care of with Ashwin in their side. His recent form speaks it all and it this form continues, he could be the bowler to look out for from Pune’s stable.
The areas that they missed covering is all-rounders and pace bowlers. Not even one proper all-rounder is present in the team who can regularly bowl and hit big shots at the same time. Although Smith is there, his bowling remains an uncertain and therefore, that void remains. Pace bowlers are an integral part of cricket. Pune not picking any fast bowler could prove as a serious issue to worry for if other teams bid for the mainstream pace bowlers at the final auction of February 2016. Both these issues should be looked on to while they pick players from the auction but rest assured, their batting remains pretty strong and destructive.
Rajkot on the other hand have played it smartly. They have tried to cover almost all areas with the players they have chosen. The newcomer team has opted for all-rounders who can both bat and bowl regularly. Suresh Raina, their first pick has been a great batsman throughout all seasons of IPL. He has the most runs and is capable to destroy any bowling attack, not forgetting his part-time off-spin that may come handy. If we combine that batting firepower with that of Brendon McCullum, the results could be catastrophic. They could themselves frustrate the bowlers with their clever and smashy batting style. McCullum could also keep wickets and can be someone to go to if Rajkot are not able to pick a good keeper from the auction. Recent comeback to Test cricket saw Jadeja in great form and if we go by this form, he can be the dark horse in Rajkot’s star-studded team. Picking up wickets has been his forte while he also holds the ability to smack quick boundaries in the final overs, a key player. Foreigners Bravo and Faulkner are greats of the same field. Both can bat, hit sixes regularly and both bowl pace. Combining this superior all-round power, Rajkot team seems to be the team to look out for in the coming IPL.
Where they can go wrong is form and comebacks. Most of their players are big on paper but out there, in reality, they have been not been enjoying their best of form currently. Players like Raina and Jadeja have not been able to perform brilliantly in their limited overs national games and they would have to improve a lot if they want to be value-for-money players for their teams. Bravo and Faulkner have been returning from injury and they would quickly need to adapt to the fast game to make an impact in this cash-rich tournament.
While auction happens in February 2016 and the tournament starting from April 9, 2016, we’ll have to wait and see how these new teams form the core and adapt to their new fellows in the team.