The highly anticipated player drafting process for the upcoming edition of the IPL yielded some astonishing results. Astonishing, because Shane Watson, who has been the Man of the Series in 2 IPL seasons, was not chosen by either Pune or Rajkot. Barring the case of Watson though, the drafting process saw respected names being taken by both the sides.
The Pune side had the honors of choosing the first player, and it was just a no-brainer to opt for the services of India’s limited-overs captain MS Dhoni. Dhoni’s presence will not just be a boon to the Pune side in the IPL, but even from the financial front. With Dhoni’s name associated with their business venture, the owners of Pune can cash in on that big time. However, with both teams opting for 5 players each, from a pool of the squads of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, it is difficult to determine which team holds the aces.
Nonetheless, judging by the current selections and the attributes of the personnel chosen by the teams, it is team Pune which has the edge over Rajkot. Firstly, the individuals of the two sides are as follows:
Pune: 1 MS Dhoni, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 R Ashwin, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Faf du Plessis
Rajkot: 1 Suresh Raina, 2 Ravindra Jadeja, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 James Faulkner, 5 Dwayne Bravo.
There is a definite contrast in the think tank of both the sides. While Rajkot have opted for genuine fire power with the bat, Pune have gone in for a subdued version. The presence of Suresh Raina and Brendon McCullum will bolster any batting lineup in the world in any condition. These two at the top of the order have provided the Chennai Super Kings with some explosive starts.
The remaining three players of Rajkot are all-rounders, and specifically, hard-hitting all-rounders. Faulkner and Bravo can turn a game on its head within the span of an over. Bowling wise, Bravo’s name has often been involved in the list of the leading wicket-takers in the IPL. How can one ignore the presence of the local boy – Ravindra Jadeja?
But what does Pune have in their rank which makes them a slightly better side than Rajkot? The answer to that is versatility. MS Dhoni as a batsman might be struggling undeniably, but he still is an asset worth having. Dhoni is in that mood where he is just one inning away from striking form. More than anything else, it is his captaincy which makes him such an irresistible package. Even as he struggles with a derelict batting form, his razor sharp captaincy settles that issue. The way he handles his bowlers in T20’s is what makes him the most successful skipper in this format.
Pune’s batting unit may not be as flamboyant as Rajkot’s, but they definitely have a lot more stability. Ajinkya Rahane has been in the form of his life, and his numbers in the IPL have been excellent to say the least. He has made run making look like an art in the IPL and is among the classiest batsmen going around. Then there is the marauding Steve Smith, who like a silent assassin piles up the runs. Smith has made batting look effortless in the year gone by and his record just seconds that.
Rahane is likely to be partnered by Faf Du Plessis at the top of the order. Du Plessis off late might have endured a horrible test series in India, but not long ago, he had an unforgettable ODI series. As an opener, his IPL record has been terrific as well. Finally, there is R. Ashwin, who is the best bowler in this format currently. Ashwin’s four overs have the ability to turn the tide in Pune’s favor. Ashwin’s effect in Pune will be similar to the influence of what Sunil Narine had for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2012 IPL.
Rajkot has a stellar batting lineup no doubt, but what they lack is the stability which Pune has. Rajkot as a batting unit, can amass 220+ in a game, or can even be bundled out for less than 120 odd. While chasing as well, they lack the presence of a calm and composed batsman. Pune, on the other hand, is full of individuals who can make chasing look damn simple.
Still, it’s too early to predict the outcome of the teams, as the auctions are almost a couple of months away. All in all, Pune and Rajkot promise to be entertaining sides.