If N Srinivasan chooses to watch the Gujarat Lions play Rising Pune Supergiants on Thursday evening, it will remind him how it used to be in the days of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
Both Pune and Gujarat have some exciting talent in their line-up, but the core group of the new franchises is made of players from the suspended yellow brigade.
In CSK’s last game of the 2015 season, there were seven names in the eleven who will go head-to-head on Thursday.
With MS Dhoni, R Ashwin and Faf du Pessis in the Pune camp, coached by Stephen Fleming, and Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo and Dwayne Smith in the home team, it’s going to be CSK versus CSK at the first IPL game to be played at the Saurashtra Cricket Association.
Together they formed a formidable unit, as last season CSK had topped the league table. Despite being in separate outfits, they have started with a bang with both teams making a winning start this season.
Adding to the interest around the Dhoni versus Raina contest is the fact that they know each other’s games well. It will be about who can execute the plans better on the day.
On paper, Pune have a formidable unit with depth in batting. Ajinkya Rahane, Du Plessis and Kevin Pietersen make the top three, followed by Steve Smith, Dhoni and Mitchell Marsh.
Gujarat’s strength lies in bowling. In Bravo and James Faulkner, they have two of the best death bowlers. Jadeja gives them strong spin support. Their batting is top-heavy though. In McCullum and Aaron Finch they have a dynamic opening pair. Apart from Raina, they have limited options in the middle order and are dependent on lower-order bats Jadeja, Bravo and Faulkner.
The CSK saga was an embarrassing chapter of the IPL, with the Indian Cements franchise suspended by the Supreme Court for two years on disciplinary grounds. But there’s no denying they were the biggest draw, known for the exciting brand of cricket. This is why the owners of the Pune and Rajkot franchise went hard at getting these names. The IPL has got off to a lukewarm start, and it remains to be seen if even after separation these players can prove to be match winners.
It is natural that the action on Thursday will be followed with interest in Chennai as it will be in Rajkot and Pune.