IPL 2016: Test for former Chennai Super King stars as Pune, Rajkot make debuts - Firstpost

IPL 2016: Test for former Chennai Super King stars as Pune, Rajkot make debuts

'Brand CSK' is history and the likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo will usher in a life that goes beyond the bright canary yellow when Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions make their Indian Premier League debuts with nothing much to lose in a shelf life of two years.

With 59 matches spread across 10 cities, the cash-rich league starting Saturday will unearth new domestic talents apart from giving some of the tried and tested faces a shot at redemption during the next seven weeks of what is again expected to be a perfect marriage of cricket and entertainment.

While Dhoni is a seasoned captain in shortest format, India's Test skipper Virat Kohli, with his staggering new-found success in T20 internationals, will hope that the form translates for his IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore in the company of Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers.

IPL 2016 Trophy. Image courtesy - BCCI.

IPL 2016 Trophy. Image courtesy - BCCI.

For the high-profile defending champions Mumbai Indians, the squad looks familiar from last season with the calm Rohit Sharma in charge and, in fact, has been bolstered by addition of dashing Englishman Jos Buttler.

The perennial wooden spooners Delhi Daredevils will hope that new superstar of 'Kingdom T20' Carlos Brathwaite brings in his new-found exuberance under Rahul Dravid's 'Mentorship' and Zaheer Khan's leadership.

The Shah Rukh Khan co-owned Kolkata Knight Riders will have the vocal crowd support at Eden Gardens, but the million dollar question is whether Sunil Narine, dubbed a 'chucker', can recreate the magic with a remodelled action.

Narine's captain Gautam Gambhir, who has not scored runs for a long time will also be under pressure as Jacques Kallis makes debut as the franchise's coach.

Sunrisers Hyderabad have the firepower in batting with David Warner upfront and have the experience of Ashish Nehra to guide Bangladesh's 'cutter master' Mustafizur Rahaman.

Kings XI Punjab have David Miller and Glenn Maxwell to shore up the batting but, sans Mitchell Johnson, lack the firepower in the bowling department.

But with CSK and Rajasthan Royals being suspended for two years on the recommendations of Justice Lodha Commission, the normally settled team combinations have gone for a toss making the squad compositions look even more intriguing.

Such has been the impact of the yellow brigade from Chennai in India's yearly T20 razzmatazz, that it will be difficult for their thousands of fans to accept that there will not be any 'whistle podu' in the ninth edition.

The famous 'CSK template' set by Dhoni making it the most prolific T20 franchise across globe will now need to be reworked keeping a new team and an unfamiliar condition in mind.

As he is nearing 35, the once upon a time 'Captain Cool', who now often blows hot and cold whenever the topic of his retirement is broached, will find a new challenge of devising a new strategy, something he did not have to do for at least the last five seasons.

It will make an interesting view as to how Dhoni re-jigs his plan in the new set-up.

At Chepauk, CSK's 'Chennai Fortress', Dhoni had IPL's most successful player Suresh Raina at No 3. The slot is expected to go to Australian captain Steve Smith.

While Dhoni will have Faf du Plessis and Ravichandran Ashwin from the original set-up, it will be one hell of a task to replace a Raina or Ravindra Jadeja in that line-up.

Albie Morkel being back in the mix from Daredevils, will be a welcome addition for Dhoni as Dwayne Bravo will be plying his trade for the Lions. Dhoni will also not mind if Kevin Pietersen gives him a few match-winning knocks, which he is still capable of in this format.

For Raina, his leadership ambitions have got wings having joined Lions and he will hope that at the end of it, his team will be able to groove to Bravo's 'Champion Dance'.

Brendon McCullum, with his pyrotechnics, and Dwayne Smith, with his big-hitting prowess, will give Raina's team the suitable balance required on a Rajkot pitch that promises to be placid. James Faulkner's confidence took a hit after Kohli blasted him but his clever variations will work on these tracks.

For Kohli, an elusive IPL title will also assert his ability as a leader in the shortest format and he will be again looking upto Gayle and De Villiers as they form the 'Terrific Trio' of the 'Red Brigade'.

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