Gujarat Lions has some of the best batters in Twenty20. Read: Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith and skipper Suresh Raina. The team has some of the best bowlers in T20 too. Read: Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja and Dale Steyn (though he is more lethal in whites). Its all-rounders section also looks impressive with the presence of Bravo, Jadeja and Australian Andrew Tye.
However, 1+1+1 does not always amount to three in a team sport. For instance, Deccan Chargers looked a threatening side on paper before the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League. But towards the end, it was fighting for the penultimate spot in the points table against Royal Challengers Bangalore and lost the battle. The two new outfits this season, Rising Pune Supergiants, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and Gujarat Lions, face the challenge of moulding their players into fighting units even though the teams’ existence is uncertain after two years. Of course, it will help that the core members of Gujarat Lions — Bravo, McCullum, Smith, Raina and Jadeja — have spent some time together at Chennai Super Kings. The team has also shrewdly picked six players — including Raina — from the Uttar Pradesh squad that won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy earlier this year. Having led Uttar Pradesh through the tournament, Raina would know the players from his state well, and hence, familiarising with them would not be that much of an issue.
However, Raina might be worried about his run drought. In four games, until India’s last league match against Australia, he scored just 41 runs. An underperforming skipper can be a liability to his team. However, batting at his favourite No. 3 spot (his usual position in CSK), which he is likely to do, might help him end his miserable run of form.
Gujarat Lions is set to play five of its home games at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot. Jadeja will be smirking. He reaped 37 wickets in Saurashtra’s first three Ranji games played there last year.
Having led Uttar Pradesh and India on rare occasions, Raina’s captaincy in the IPL will make for interesting viewing.
Squad: Suresh Raina (capt.), Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum, James Faulkner, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, Dale Steyn, Aaron Finch, Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Andre Tye, Karun Nair, Paras Dogra, Eklavya Dwivedi, Pradeep Sangwan, Pravin Tambe, Shivil Kaushik, Sarabjeet Ladda, Umang Sharma, Shabad Jakati, Akshdeep Nath, Jaydev Shah.
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