‘RPS players committed to their goal’

The presence of seniors will not be a problem for the RPS skipper, Steve Smith. “All our senior players are extremely matured, they are outstanding individuals,” says the team owner Sanjiv Goenka.

Acquiring Ben Stokes was a master-stroke by Rising Pune Supergiant.   -  Getty Images

The team has dropped the ‘s’ from the end of its last name, but that is nothing when compared with the Rising Pune Supergiant’s overhaul halfway into its two-season Indian Premier League outing. It released 11 of the 27 players whom it had taken on its roster for the 2016 edition. Besides, the team also replaced Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain with Australia’s Steve Smith.

Sanjiv Goenka, the team owner, said that the need for a facelift arose after RPS finished seventh in its debut season last year. “We finished second from the bottom, pretty much everything went wrong. Having several players who were not fit, changing of the venues (due to a court order that shifted matches out of Maharashtra midway through the tournament), being the first year the team not gelling as one unit, pretty much everything that could go wrong, went wrong,” Goenka said.

“To make a mark we had to try something drastic. The team believed that we needed at least one more potential match-winner with bowling and batting ability,” he said.

The belief resulted in the team going all out in the bid for England’s Ben Stokes at the auction in February. Despite entering the auction with Rs. 19.1 crore, the team virtually went broke as it coughed up a whopping Rs. 14.5 crore to acquire the England all-rounder’s service.

“Ben Stokes is the best all-rounder in the game. He has the potential to win games on his own. We have other potential players with him. They are suitable and have the winning ability,” Goenka said.

Besides the acquisition of Stokes, the other talking point in RPS’ build-up to the season was, obviously, the team management’s decision to replace Dhoni as captain. That effectively leaves Smith as the leader of a pack that includes India’s most successful captain, the latest to lead India in Tests (Ajinkya Rahane) and a Test vice-captain (Ravichandran Ashwin).

However, Goenka is convinced that the presence of leaders will not be counter-productive for Smith. “All our senior players are extremely matured, they are outstanding individuals, they are committed to the goal of RPS. I do not anticipate any problem whatsoever,” he said.