It is likely that this will be the last time the Rising Pune Supergiant compete in the IPL, with the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals set to return for the 2018 edition. They were extremely unlucky last season, as they were hampered by several injuries to many of their key players. With Ravichandran Ashwin and Mitchell Marsh ruled out for most of the IPL, it is set to be a tough campaign for this franchise.
The Rising Pune Supergiant, whose team name was actually the Rising Pune Supergiants last year, had a tough season last year as they suffered several injuries. Their big hitting players like Kevin Pietersen, Faf du Plessis and Steve Smith all missed large parts of their season. As a result their season, which started strongly, fell apart fast. They ended up seventh, finishing ahead of the Kings XI Punjab, which was hardly considered an achievement. While there was chaos all around him, one batsman, Ajinkya Rahane, stood up for his side. Rahane hit 480 runs at an average of over 43 and found some support in the consistent MS Dhoni. These two are set to play key roles again this year, but they will also be boosted by Steve Smith’s return to the side.
Pune had an exceptionally strong batting unit on paper but their bowling department was significantly weaker. On the whole, they were economical as a unit, conceding the fewest runs out of any side, but they struggled to take wickets. Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa took the most wickets for the Rising Pune Supergiant, claiming 12 scalps. However, the Aussie played just five matches, taking 6/19 in one match against the eventual winners the Sunrisers Hyderabad. After this impact, we can expect him to feature much more heavily this season.
It was a memorable auction for Pune, as they broke the record for the most expensive purchase ever at an IPL Auction. They signed England all-rounder Ben Stokes for an incredible 14.5 crore – over six times his base price. This was a huge singing for the Rising Pune Supergiant, but it was slightly surprising that they paid so much for him. His record in limited overs cricket in India is by no means excellent, but he still does have the ability to be a match-winner.
After spending so much money on Stokes, the Rising Pune Supergiant management team did not have many funds left to buy other big name players. However, they still managed to secure all-rounder Dan Christian and New Zealand pace bowler Lockie Ferguson. In particular, Ferguson was an interesting signing as he is one of the fastest bowlers in world cricket at the moment. Prior to the start of the New Zealand domestic season, Ferguson clocked 155 kph in a warm-up watch and maintained this pace throughout the season. The chances are that he will not start, but if he does play, you can guarantee that he will provide some excitement.
There is no doubt that batting is the strength of the Rising Pune Supergiant side. They retained the bulk of their top order, but they will be without Kevin Pietersen this season as he withdrew after a busy winter. Ajinkya Rahane and Mayank Agarwal are in-line to open for Pune this season. Agarwal made his name for the Delhi Daredevils, but has failed to consolidate his reputation as an aggressive and consistent batsman. This will be a huge season for the Indian, as he looks to rejuvenate his career.
Two exceptionally talented Australian batsmen are set to make up the bulk of their middle order. Usman Khawaja, who opened a few matches for Pune last year, and Australian captain Steve Smith, will be batting at three and four respectively this season. Smith, in particular, is exceptionally dangerous at the moment, after scoring the most runs in the recently concluded Test series between Australia and India. The Aussie skipper hit 499 runs in just eight innings, averaging well over 70. This included three hundreds on some tough pitches. Last year Smith dominated with the bat, before he was unfortunately injured, and we can certainly expect some more fireworks for him this year.
As we look further down the Pune batting line-up, two of the most explosive batsmen in the history of the game make up their lower order. India’s former captain and wicketkeeper MS Dhoni is almost certain to be batting at five this year, with record singing Ben Stokes below him at six. Dhoni needs no introduction, his statistics speak for himself. Having played in all seasons of the competition, the former skipper is averaging nearly 40 at a strike rate of close to 140. His experience makes him by far one of the most valuable members of this Rising Pune Supergiant squad. Stokes, on the other hand, is significantly less experienced but still equally powerful. The Englishman had a World T20 to
Dhoni needs no introduction, his statistics speak for himself. Having played in all seasons of the competition, the former skipper is averaging nearly 40 at a strike rate of close to 140. His experience makes him by far one of the most valuable members of this Rising Pune Supergiant squad. Stokes, on the other hand, is significantly less experienced but still equally powerful. The Englishman had a World T20 to
Stokes, on the other hand, is significantly less experienced but still equally powerful. The Englishman had a World T20 to forget after Carlos Brathwaite hit him for four consecutive sixes in the last over of the final, and he will be determined to make amends again in India.
Last year it was Ashok Dinda who led the seam attack as he took 11 wickets in nine matches. His recent domestic form has been far from electric as he has struggled to find some consistency. However, with a lack of depth in their squad, and since most of Pune’s overseas players will be used in their batting, it is likely that Dinda will lead the line again this year. Despite the purchase of left-
Despite the purchase of left-armer Jaydev Unadkat, Dinda is set to be partnered by Ishwar Pandey. The former Chennai Super Kings bowler did not feature in the competition last year but performed excellently in the 2015 edition. Moreover, Pandey has excelled in the recent List A domestic tournament in India, picking up seven wickets in his last five games. He bowls with excellent pace and manages to swing the ball early on and will be an exciting player to watch this season. These two specialist seamers will be supported by all-rounders Stokes and Rajat Bhatia this season.
In the IPL Auction, headlines were made as South African Imran Tahir went unsold. However, after Mitchell Marsh was ruled out through injury, Tahir was drafted into the Rising Pune Supergiant squad. Yet, it is still likely that he won’t play many games, as Adam Zampa is set to spearhead Pune’s spin attack. Zampa has had an incredible year since he made his name with a phenomenal IPL stint for Pune. He has now represented Australia on several occasions and was a threat throughout the Big Bash League. A year on, Zampa returns to Pune with more experience and as a larger threat than before. Indian spinner Ankit Sharma will be the replacement for the injured Ravichandran Ashwin. Prior India’s Test season Sharma would not have been considered in the Pune starting line-up, but now the second best Test spinner in the world has been ruled out, he is the foremost Indian spinner in their squad. Admittedly he has not had much IPL success recently, but that could easily change this year.
Indian spinner Ankit Sharma will be the replacement for the injured Ravichandran Ashwin. Prior to India’s Test season, Sharma would not have been considered in the Pune starting line-up, but now the second best Test spinner in the world has been ruled out, he is the foremost Indian spinner in their squad. Admittedly he has not had much IPL success recently, but that could easily change this year.
On paper, the Rising Pune Supergiant look one of the weaker sides in the tournament. They will be heavily reliant on their batting, but with such an experienced top order, it is likely that it will be able to handle the strain. However, it is hard to see this side progressing out of the groups. We can expect to see Pune finishing low down the table this season.
- Ajinkya Rahane
- Mayank Agarwal
- Usman Khawaja
- Steve Smith (C)
- MS Dhoni
- Ben Stokes
- Rajat Bhatia
- Ankit Sharma
- Adam Zampa
- Ashok Dinda
- Ishwar Pandey