Welcome to my series of Post Auction & Pre-Season Reviews! How I will do this is that I will discuss my proposed Playing XI for each team, and in the process review my thoughts on the players and the team. Enjoy!
The Rising Pune Supergiants have one of the more glamorous and star-studded sides in this IPL. It was interesting to see their approach as they approached an auction where most other teams were looking to strengthen their sides with a whole team to purchase. They were not able to spend exorbidantly, like some of their counterparts could, but still managed to scrap together what I think is a very strong side. They played to a good plan, picking up bowlers to complement their strong batting pics from the draft. My only issue with their auction picks is that they undervalued the importance of those “in between” reserve Indian batsmen. Their lineup is strong up top, but the fact that they lack a couple of Indian batsmen who they can squish into their middle order while they use their overseas slots to experiment with bowlers/bowling all rounders. Saurabh Tiwari is the only guy they have right now who can do this, so his form will be vital.
Here’s the playing XI I think they should use. I’ve also done some player-specific player analysis there, which is why it’s so long:
Rahane’s biggest role at the top of the order for RPS will be that of an anchor. His solidity at the top should allow other players, such as Kevin Pietersen, Steve Smith and MS Dhoni, to play a more free-flowing, aggressive variant. Many complained that his innings in the T20 World Cup semifinal vs. the West Indies was too slow given the pitch they were playing on, but I personally feel that Rahane did his job well. He gave the strike to the more aggressive Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli as much as possible, and although he could have tried for a few more boundaries here and there, he fulfilled the role that was given to him. If he can do the same for Pune, they will be quite happy.
The mainstream path would be making Faf open the batting, as he has a significant amount of experience with the role in IPL cricket. However, I would go with KP. The main reason for this is that he contrasts Rahane better. Faf’s conventional style of play is that of an anchor, not unlike Rahane himself. While that is handy to have, I feel KP would be better utilized at the position. Rahane’s stabilizing effect will allow the Englishmen to do what he does best, and attack from ball one, all without the worry of trying to rebuild after the fall of a wicket. It will be an unorthodox ploy, but will definitely be one that can bring the
Warriors Supergiants great success. Also, with the track in Pune known for being notoriously slow, don’t be surprised if he is called on to roll his arm over once in a while.
Faf du Plessis & Steve Smith
Faf and Smith. Nuff said, to be honest. Anyways, I find it so hard to decide which one of them should play at 3 and which one at 4. Both have similar variants of gameplay, and both are equally capable of batting at both positions. However, if I were forced to chose, I would say that I would send Smith at 3 if KP got out early, as Smith has a better reputation for being aggressive in the IPL. If Rahane got out, I’d send Faf, as he can consolidate better. Again, these are just speculations. Only the actual tournament will tell which one is in better form to take that number 3 spot. Both batsmen will also be looking to re-cuperate themselves in the T20 format after rather dismal campaigns in the recently concluded World T20, so expect them to come hard.
Tiwari’s role – should Pune play him – will be of utmost importance. Pune, as it seems, have contracted what I call “RCB Syndrome,” where they have a super strong top 4 or 5, but after that you kind of see that there’s on one else who really makes that much of an impact (so named because of RCB’s issues with this between 2012-2014). Hence, Tiwari’s form will be critical to determining the flavor of Pune’s squad composition this year. If he does well, they will be free to experiment with options like Adam Zampa, Scott Boland, Thisara Perera and Albie Morkel, without much fear of losing batting stability. If he fails, however, they will pretty much be stuck with Mitchell Marsh, who has been a bit off-color lately.
Irfan Pathan joins Dhoni for a second time. He did not get much of a chance in CSK due to the resurgence of Ashish Nehra, as well as the arrival of Pawan Negi. However, Pune’s squad composure will allow for his talents to really be put to the test. More than being a 5th bowling option, he provides some extra insurance with the bat at that number 7 position. Also, should Saurabh Tiwari fail and Adam Zampa prove to be worthy of cementing himself in the playing XI, he will need to take the further responsibility of shoring up the batting at number 6. All this said, Irfan cannot afford to be complacent with his role, as Rajat Bhatia is also knocking on the door.
Ashwin is probably India’s best bowler out there right now. Especially on a slower wicket in Pune, Dhoni will be licking his lips at how he can deploy his number one spinner to max effect. Also, Ashwin’s moderately effective batting ability will come in handy for those few extra runs that – in T20s – can really make the difference. Honestly, there is not much else to say for Ash.
Pandey was one of CSK’s best finds over the last 2 years. His excellent tandem with Ashish Nehra allowed CSK to go with their traditional structure of 3 overseas batsmen and Dwayne Bravo, something that was crucial to their success in the tournament. He represented the Pune Warriors India in 2013, so he should have some prior knowledge of the wicket.
This slot is basically one that will be contested for between RP Singh, Ashok Dinda, and Ishant Sharma. I picked RP because he offers a unique angle of left arm seam, has the best IPL stats of the three, and frankly because Ishant and Dinda have been pretty terrible off late. However, the competition is still healthy to have, as it will keep all three bowlers on their toes. Also, this will be RP’s first IPL appearance in 3 years, so hopefully he can use it to springboard himself back into the limelight.
Zampa is probably Pune’s most underrated foreign player. I would understand if they eventually decided to go with Mitchell Marsh ahead of him, but I still feel that he is one of their true trump cards. He was one of Australia’s most successful bowlers in their recently concluded WT20 campaign, and also bowled some superb spells for his Big Bash franchise, the Melbourne Stars. Especially on what has historically been a turning track, I think Zampa will really make a difference. It will help that he has MS Dhoni, Steve Smith (his Int’l cricket captain), and R Ashwin in his team, players that can help him reach his full potential with the Supergiants.