Pune: A Super King, can Dhoni become a Supergiant?

There are useful players from abroad — besides a host of Indians — for most types in the side.

Owner Sanjiv Goenka and captain M. S. Dhoni of Rising Pune Supergiants team unveiling the official team jersey for IPL Season 9 in New Delhi in February.   -  PTI

For eight years, M. S. Dhoni had served as arguably the strongest pillar in the consistently successful IPL endeavours of the now banned Chennai Super Kings (CSK). He has now been asked to lead the new Rising Pune Supergiants, which possesses a potent set of players of all categories. Despite the resources available, the major challenge for Dhoni will be to facilitate a settled outfit that will be more than the sum of its parts, as he had done with his previous team.

For starters, the resource pool is reassuring. There are useful players from abroad — besides a host of Indians — for most types: top-order batsmen, led by Kevin Pietersen, all-rounders, led by Mitchell Marsh, and spinners, led by the recent Australia debutant Adam Zampa.

The fast-bowling requirement can be filled in with India internationals Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Ashok Dinda and R. P. Singh, besides others. Ishwar Pandey, the right-arm seamer, a vital contributor to Madhya Pradesh’s impressive run in the Ranji Trophy, is also in the squad. So is left-arm spinner Ankit Sharma, another useful contributor to Madhya Pradesh’s campaign.

An additional boost to the side is that it has the intelligent Stephen Fleming as its coach and he has worked with Dhoni before. The two will have to work out different strategies for a surface different to the one in Chennai. The recent track at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, used for the Twenty20 between India and Sri Lanka in February, offered bite for seamers and spinners, for which a seamer-heavy attack could be ideal in the first half of the tournament. Useful all-rounders in Thisara Perera and Mitchell Marsh can boost the line-up in that circumstance.

Logically, one can gauge off-spinner R. Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, R. P. Singh, Steve Smith, Pietersen and Pathan, besides Dhoni, fitting in the first choice XIs on most occasions.

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But regardless of the on-field strategies the unit takes, which in most likelihood will be studiously thought out, a new setting for Dhoni and Fleming is bound to create some initial haziness.

Their task will be to cut through the CSK hangover as soon as possible.

Squad: M. S. Dhoni (capt.), Ankit Sharma, Baba Aparajith, Ravichandran Ashwin, Murugan Ashwin, Ankush Bains, Rajat Bhatia, Scott Boland, Deepak Chahar, Ashok Dinda, Francois du Plessis, Peter Handscomb, Jaskaran Singh, Mitchell Marsh, Albie Morkel, Ishwar Pandey, Irfan Pathan, Thisara Perera, Kevin Pietersen, Ajinkya Rahane, Ishant Sharma, R. P. Singh, Steve Smith, Saurabh Tiwary, Adam Zampa.