We take a look at the Rising Pune Supergiant in the build-up to the new IPL season.The Rising Pune Supergiants head into their second season of IPL cricket looking to improve on last year’s below par performance which saw them finish second-last ahead of the Kings XI. One thing is for sure, they have a squad, who on their day, are capable of mixing it up with the best. Will Steve Smith’s men rise to the challenge this year or will they sink – let’s take a look:
There have been some interesting changes to the side this year. MS Dhoni’s captaincy has been handed to Steve Smith – much to the dismay of the hordes of Dhoni fans around India. Objectively, it looks to be the right move With Dhoni’s powers wavering over the last few years coupled with Smith’s excellent, aggressive captaincy and prowess with the bat make him the perfect long-term replacement.
The team have also gone from being called the Supergiants to the Supergiant – I’m not really sure why they’ve gone this route although some reports in India suggest that it has something to with superstition.
All that nonsense aside, let’s look at the playing staff they have at their disposal this season. The biggest news coming out of the Supergiant camp is that Mitchell Marsh will miss the tournament following a shoulder injury with Imran Tahir being drafted into the side as his replacement.
The new franchise also spent an ungodly amount of money – $2.16 million – on Ben Stokes. That’s a lot of money for someone who has a reputation for floundering with the ball on placid decks and throwing his wicket away cheaply with the bat. He’s also not one to handle pressure particularly well – just think back to that World T20 Final.
Look to the top and middle order to carry the team through this competition. Ajinkya Rahanae, Faf du Plessis, Usman Khawaja, Smith and Dhoni will all have roles to play. They’ve also got one of the best spin attacks in the competition with, Ravichandran Ashwin, Tahir and Adam Zampa all available for the side. Expect the latter two to rotate while Ashwin keeps hold of his place in the side throughout the tournament.
One to Watch: Steve Smith
I'm pretty interested to see how the Indian fans react to Steve Smith. It's one thing coming into the IPL having just concluded an ill-tempered tour of India - but to come into the side and replace MS Dhoni as captain? Massive pressure on the Aussie skipper to win over the fans.
I definitely expect to see the Supergiant improve on last season’s performance although I don’t see them going all the way. Losing du Plessis and Stokes will be a big loss midway through their campaign. And while their overseas contingent looks pretty good, I just worry about their lesser-known Indian players stepping up to the plate – they’re likely to miss out on the top four in my opinion.