Today will be the first time MS Dhoni will not be captaining in an IPL game. Steven Smith will walk out to lead Rising Pune Supergiant at the venue of his recent Test success, where he made a magnificent century in Australia’s 333-run win. Rohit Sharma returns after a five-month injury layoff.
Whose home game is this, really? People of Pune believe the MCA Stadium in Gahunje is way out of the city to be called one of their own. Those in Navi Mumbai believe it’s faster to get to the stadium from there than it does for them to get to the Wankhede. Anyway, we’ll have that up for another day. For now, it’s a warm welcome to our ball-by-ball coverage of match two.
Steven Smith is taken around the ground in a golf cart with dancers and fireworks surrounding him. The stadium’s far from full at the moment. The grand stand is packed, but plenty of blue spaces on the far end. Rohit Sharma joins him on the stage as the ‘Duniya Hiladenge’ theme song belts out.
Lot of talk around Supergiant’s team combination. No Ashwin. So they’ll need some experience in the spin department. They’ve got current No. 1 T20 spinner Imran Tahir in their ranks, but will they leave out Adam Zampa, their highest wicket-taker last year? Or will they play both? That will mean they may have to leave out Faf, since Stokes is a certainty, barring injury concerns. Lots to think about.
Zampa will consider himself unlucky, if Imran is picked above him, and will also question the Pune think tank. It will mean a player who was not picked at the auction plays ahead of a regular.
Chris Gayle and David Warner are our top two picks currently. But you can only pick four overseas players. Would you rather pick one Indian along with one of these two? Sehwag? Tendulkar? Gambhir? Uthappa? Plenty of contenders.
“My choice is Chris Gayle and Robin Uthappa,” says Vicky Maly. “Gayle: Destabilizes the opposition plans and approach by mere presence. A match winner on own force. Although doesn’t fire always, he is a great force to to have at the top of the order. Uthappa: Controlled aggression but carries a lot of power in his shots. Ability to play intelligent shots against all types of bowling. Calm head and consistent.”
Sandeep Mellan says: “We need at least one Indian opener keeping 4 foreign players policy. So Sehwag is the best choice here since he is consistent and has a very high strike rate. The other reason to chose Sehwag is my other opener is Chris Gayle. Since Chris takes time to get his eye in, we need an opener who can start firing from the first ball and who better than Sehwag. I would like to have 2 all rounders (unfortunately we don’t have decent Indian all rounders, my choice here is foreigners again) and one foreign fast bowler in the team hence I have only one foreign cap left which made me choose Chris Gayle and Sehwag.”