Gujarat Lions may be one of two new teams in this year’s IPL, but they have plenty of experienced hands to get them through.
Led by Suresh Raina, the highest run-getter in IPL, who hasn’t missed a single game in the eight editions so far, they have a solid core with plenty of all-rounders. They won’t have to worry about their top order as they can simply go with the established line-up of the now suspended Chennai Super Kings, with Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith opening and Raina coming one down. Ravindra Jadeja too has joined his old Chennai teammates in the side, while Aaron Finch, ranked No. 2 in T20 Internationals, offers a useful option at the top.
Dwayne Bravo, World T20 2016 champion with West Indies, and James Faulkner, add to the firepower and are match-winners in their own right, and the team will hope Dinesh Karthik, the wicketkeeper, will get going with the bat as well.
While several of the players have the experience of playing alongside one another, the challenge for the side will be to quickly gel as a team. In that they will have T20 veteran Brad Hodge, the coach, and Heath Streak, the bowling coach, helping them.
Gujarat are a team of all-rounders, with local hero Jadeja leading the pack. Including Bravo, who has proven success at the death, and trusted finisher Faulkner, would allow the team to go with one less fast bowler. With captain Raina himself being a useful part-timer with his right-arm offspin, it is safe to say that Gujarat will be powered by their match-winning all-rounders.
Dale Steyn will be expected to lead the Gujarat bowling attack, with Dhawal Kulkarni and Praveen Kumar backing him, and Pravin Tambe, Shadab Jakati and 20-year-old Shivil Kaushik providing spin options. However, with Steyn not in the best of form and battling injury, their low-key bowling line-up could be a concern. They are likely to depend on their batting line-up to post huge totals, and hope their all-rounders can more than do their bit to help in the defence. Streak, though, has tasted success as a bowling coach and can be expected to get the best out of the inexperienced youngsters.
This is the first time Gujarat Lions will be playing in the IPL.
2016 auction action
After picking Raina, Jadeja, McCullum, Bravo and Faulkner in the December draft last year, Gujarat further strengthened their batting by buying Finch for his base price of Rs 1 crore, Smith for Rs 3.2 crore and Karthik for Rs 2.3 crore. The focus though, was on all-rounders and bowlers. They bought Steyn for Rs 2.3 crore, Kulkarni at his base price of Rs 2 crore and Praveen for Rs 3.5 crore. In all, they spent Rs 16.65 crore on 19 players.
Player to watch
Andrew Tye recently made his T20I debut against India, where he gave away 28 runs in four overs, picking up a wicket. Tye’s impressive record for Perth Scorchers in Big Bash League, where he could be counted on to bowl impressive yorkers at the death, earned him an IPL call-up. He averages 22.22 in the 25 T20 matches he has played so far, picking up 31 wickets at an economy of 7.40.
Squad: Suresh Raina (capt), Brendon McCullum (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Andrew Tye, Dhawal Kulkarni, Aaron Finch, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Dwayne Bravo, Praveen Kumar, James Faulkner, Paras Dogra, Dwayne Smith, Eklavya Dwivedi, Dale Steyn, Pradeep Sangwan, Pravin Tambe, Shivil Kaushik, Sarabjit Ladda, Umang Sharma, Shadab Jakati, Jaydev Shah, Ishan Kishan (wk), Akshdeep Nath, Amit Mishra.
Mint is in content partnership with Wisden India for the Indian Premier League season.