Besides striving for re-entry into India’s Test side, Suresh
Raina has a new challenge on hand – to shape up the new
Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Rajkot.
On Tuesday, Raina, who until 24 hours ago belonged to the
Chennai Super Kings (CSK), was picked up by the Intex-
owned Rajkot team for the 2016 and 2017 IPL seasons,
which will see Sanjiv Goenka-owned Pune as the other new
team in the fray.
Rajkot and Pune have replaced CSK and Rajasthan Royals
(RR) – the two teams that are serving a two-year
suspension after their officials were found guilty of betting
activities. But what the introduction of these two new
entrants also did was end an eight-year partnership
between Raina and MS Dhoni.
While Pune picked Dhoni as their first player of choice from
the 50-men IPL Draft, Rajkot went for Raina, which meant
the two CSK players will play for two different franchises
for the first time in IPL’s history.
At the end of the Draft, both teams had five players each
and will complete the remaining squad in the February 6
auction next year, along with the other six franchises.
Raina holds a phenomenal record with CSK, having never
missed even a single match for his former team since its
inception in 2008. That wealth of experience plus his stint
under Dhoni’s captaincy should work wonders in setting up
the Rajkot team.
Former Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More even believes Raina
should be the one to lead the Rajkot team.
“I will prefer Suresh Raina to lead the Rajkot team. I am not
saying [Ravindra] Jadeja or any other player can’t captain
the side but Raina will be the best option to lead,” Kiran
More told CricketNext .
Apart from Raina and Jadeja, the think-tank led by Intex
Director Keshav Bansal picked New Zealand skipper
Brendon McCullum and allrounders James Faulkner of
Australia and Dwayne Bravo of the West Indies.
More also felt that the challenge is a good opportunity for
Raina to show his leadership skills.
“It’s a good challenge. Hopefully, Raina will get an
opportunity to be picked as captain for Rajkot. He has spent
eight years at CSK with Dhoni and must have learnt a lot of
tricks of the trade from the Indian skipper. It can come
handy if he is asked to lead the team,” the former stumper
and chief selector said.
As first picks from the Draft, both Dhoni and Raina will take
home Rs. 12.5 crore.
“They [Dhoni and Raina] are professionals. It doesn’t
matter for who you are playing. Just go and perform
because you are a professional. They will be playing for
different teams now. Pride will be there. They will try to win
as many matches as possible for their owners. They are
professionals and paid to play and they have to perform,”
the ex-selector felt.
While Pune went for batsmen and big names, Rajkot opted
for allrounders, as many as four out of the five they were
allowed to pick.
“Both teams have top-class players. Pune have batsmen-
dominated players while Rajkot have allrounders. Both
teams are balanced but I feel the one with strong batting
line-up can get the edge as T20 is more about batting,”
“Yes, Pune have got a strong batting line-up. They have
star players – MS [Dhoni], [Ajinkya] Rahane, Steve [Smith]
and [Faf] du Plessis. [Ravichandran] Ashwin too can bat
and he is in tremendous form [with the ball], but we
shouldn’t undermine Rajkot. They have allrounders who can
prove effective in this format. They have McCullum, who
can turn the game on its head single-handedly. They have
Faulkner, who is magnificent in the death overs – with bat
and bowl. [Suresh] Raina is a game-changer,” More said
when asked to weight the two teams.
Ashwin, under the leadership of Dhoni, has done wonders
for India and CSK; and with both now set to play for Pune
as well, it surely gives the New Rising group’s team an
advantage. “Ashwin is a top-class spinner in all forms of
cricket. Dhoni as a leader and Ashwin as a spinner will form
the backbone of Pune,” More opined.
More said Dhoni’s knowledge of the game and domestic
players will work in Pune’s favour.
“Dhoni is an experienced cricketer. He knows how to handle
players and assess conditions. Hope that he continues in
the same vein as he did during his CSK days,” the Baroda
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