IT CAME AS NO SURPRISE for Indian cricket fans, when Mahendra Singh Dhoni became the first player to be picked in the IPL player draft auction held in Mumbai yesterday. Dhoni was bought by the Pune franchise, New Rising. On the other hand, the Rajkot team roped in Suresh Raina as their first-choice player, making it a Dhoni v/s Raina battle in next year's IPL.
The other players picked by Pune were opening batsman Ajinkya Rahane, premier off-spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin, current Australian captain Steven Smith and Faf du Plessis. Meanwhile, the team Rajkot picked Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum, James Faulkner and Dwayne Bravo to complete their quota of five players during the draft.
On paper the Rajkot franchise, owned by Intex have a better set of core players as compared to their Pune counterparts. The inclusion of prolific batsmen in Raina, McCullum will certainly add quality and depth to their batting. The duo have performed exceedingly well in the IPL and will continue to form a lethal combination going ahead.
The team is also packed with all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja, James Faulkner and Dwayne Bravo. All three men have amazing credentials in this shorter format and will certainly add depth and variety to the Rajkot squad. Heading into the main auction in Bangalore next year, Rajkot might also be tempted to add explosive opener Dwayne Smith into their scheme of things. And, if that happens, Rajkot will be a force to reckon with in the next two IPL seasons.
Pune, on the other hand, might not have the big-hitters in their squad. Dhoni certainly has the ability to deposit balls in the stands at regular intervals, but the Indian limited overs captain’s inability to finish matches from his bat in the recent-past might cause some concerns.
Rahane, Smith and Du Plessis too might not be ferocious hitters of the ball, but are more than capable of keeping pace with the demands of the format. Like Rajkot, team Pune might also be keen on drafting D Smith into their line-up to add some firepower in the batting.
Pune will also need to focus on adding match-winning all-rounders into their squad at the auction. Unlike the Rajkot team, Pune are yet to fill in that vital slot and if they can add Shane Watson to their squad, it will certainly bode well for Pune going ahead.
The other players from the suspended teams that go into the main auction are Tim Southee, Chris Morris, Pravin Tambe, Dhawal Kulkarni, Mohit Sharma and Ashish Nehra. Each of the two teams will look to strengthen their bowling by buying these players at the main auction. With a purse of 27 crores remaining for both teams, it shouldn't be a problem to build the remaining team.