Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane
Pune: The two new teams in the IPL 2016, the Gujarat Lions and the Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) had completely contrasting debuts last year. While the former finished on top of the table at the end of league stage, the latter was the first team to be knocked out in league phase and avoided the wooden spoon by a whisker.
It was only because of MS Dhoni's heroics in the last game against Kings XI Punjab, where the then skipper smashed 23 runs off the final over to earn the side a memorable win, that helped RPS avoid finishing last in the points table.
The first thing that will be on the RPS management list at the auction today is quality fast bowlers. An attack comprising Irfan Pathan, RP Singh and Ishant Sharma was just not good enough to do the job last season. No wonder then that the Supergiants' economy rate of 8.14 in the Power-play was second highest last season.
The two Ashwins weren't able to get the job done in the spin department either, with R Ashwin being a bit out of form; getting his full quota of overs in only eight out of 14 games. M Ashwin, a leggie, was guilty of bowling a boundary ball towards the end of almost every over before an injury ended his season prematurely. In fact, injuries were one of the biggest worries for the Supergiants.
Their first choice foreigners in their first game were Kevin Pietersen, Faf Du Plessis, Steven Smith and Mitchell Marsh.
They lost all four of them to injuries by half-way stage. And with skipper Dhoni struggling for form, the team was neither strong in batting or bowling department. Barring his heroics in the last game against Kings XI Punjab, Dhoni was a shadow of himself, finishing with a strike rate of 125, third lowest for batsman batting in the middle order.
His 22-ball eight-run knock against Kolkata Knight Riders drew severe criticism for being one of the slowest knocks in the T20 cricket. Performing well at home is one of the benchmark of a good IPL side, and the RPS failed on that count too. They lost all the four games at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune.
The track was a bit on the slower side, and the RPS big guns never quite adjusted to it. Ajinkya Rahane scored six fifties for Supergiants, but they were not enough to avoid nine defeats in 14 games, five of them coming in the final over.