In his book Veronica Decides to Die, Paolo Coelho said, “Death frees from the fear of dying.” Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS), a team that, as of now, has a shelf life of only two years, is already free in that regard. They can afford to put everything they have into these two seasons, and with not much to lose, they need not worry about things like legacy and tradition.
Worst case scenario, they do badly in these two seasons and, especially if the original teams return, the team’s name would be forgotten (blame must also go to the team owners for choosing such a thoroughly forgettable name). They could be like the new kid who joined school for a couple of months, then left, and nobody could remember his/her name at the end of the year.
Best case scenario, however, they win a title, and are remembered as the team that did so much in so little time.
And what’s more, the Supergiants have the goods to win it. They were fortunate enough to be able to pick players from a draft that featured the flotsam of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, both teams which qualified for the play-offs last year. They then strengthened the squad through some smart spending in the auction as well.
Their biggest asset though, for self-evident reasons, is likely to be Mahendra Singh Dhoni himself.
RPS’s middle order is among the most power-packed ones in the IPL, with Steve Smith, Faf du Plessis and Kevin Pieterson likely to be automatic selections. The trio is likely to be sandwiched between Ajinkya Rahane at the top and MS Dhoni at number six. The choice of Rahane’s opening partner will be interesting. Given the quality in the middle-order, the team might be tempted to use an all-rounder at the top to go after the bowling.
Ishant Sharma, RP Singh, Askoke Dinda and Ishwar Pandey offer Dhoni options in the pace department, though it will not be surprising if Pandey gets in ahead of the others, having played under Dhoni extensively at CSK. RPS also boast of four seam bowling all-rounders, and Mitchell Marsh, Thisara Perera, Albie Morkel and Irfan Pathan could all end up competing for one spot.
If they choose to go with an overseas player for the all-rounder’s spot, then the spin department will have to be homegrown. Ravi Ashwin will lead the pack, while his namesake, legspinner M Ashwin is coming on the back of some good performances in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy (10 wickets in six matches). Adam Zampa, who had a decent showing at the World T20, is also in the mix, as is left-arm spinner Ankit Sharma.
The RPS have also roped in former CSK coach Stephen Fleming, and have local boy Hrishikesh Kanitkar as assistant coach. Kanitkar, who led Rajasthan to two unlikely Ranji championships, coached the Goa Ranji team last season. Eric Simons will oversee the bowling department.
In both selection and composition, this team has Dhoni’s fingerprints all over it. We could well see a repeat of Dhoni and Fleming’s winning formula: Packing the side with overseas batters and relying on Indian bowlers.
They will need to hit the ground running, as their opening match is against defending champions Mumbai Indians on Saturday, as good a test as any for the new team. Dhoni and Fleming will hope that old wine in a new bottle still means champagne at the end of the tournament.