Suresh Raina - Keshav Bansal duo has built a strong Gujarat Lions squad for IPL 9. © Getty Images.
Suresh Raina-Keshav Bansal duo has built a strong Gujarat Lions squad for IPL 9

The player auction for the ninth season of Indian Premier League (IPL) took place in Bengaluru on Saturday. As always, it was a roller coaster ride, as the player buys defied all logics and expectations. Six teams came in with a strategy to fill in their holes and pick the players specifically for pre-decided roles. These franchises had more or less settled sides and hence they did not have to chalk out an extensive plan for the auction. However, there were two teams — Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) and Gujarat Lions (GL) — for whom it is going to be the first season of IPL and for the same reason, they had to build their squads from the scratch. READ: IPL 2016 Auction Live Updates & Blog: Shane Watson costliest player in IPL 9 auction; teams finalised.

Coming into the league in the aftermath of Supreme Court’s ruling that banned Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) for two years, these two new teams were given an opportunity to pick five top players from the suspended franchises in the player draft. Though RPS won the first bout by picking MS Dhoni, the GL team also fared decently when they picked IPL’s most consistent and prolific run-scorer Suresh Raina as their skipper. All-rounder trio of Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner along with the explosive Brendon McCullum formed the core of the unit. Twenty20 (T20) legend Brad Hodge filled in a huge blank by taking the coaching role. Now all they needed were some smart buys at the auction to bolster their squad. READ: Richard Madley: Meet the man who will once again sell world’s top cricketers at IPL player auction.

In Keshav Bansal of Intex Technologies, who is all of 23, they might have had one the youngest owners in the IPL history, but the business baron came prepared with the homework done and proved he was not a novice. His franchise made some smart choices and by the end of the day, had their bases covered and most of the boxes ticked. Going into the auction, the Lions had a balance of Rs 27 crores to form a team, using which they could have added a maximum of 22 more players. They did well in their maiden outing in the auctions and bought 19 players by the end of the day.

Though skipper Raina was not present in person, his influence could be felt at the auction. As much as six GL players of the total 24 are from Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy winners Uttar Pradesh (UP). It is notable here that Raina had led the side to title win, and he has got the core of that team in his side. Praveen Kumar, Eklavya Dwivedi, Akshdeep Nath, Amit Mishra and Umang Sharma all come from UP and did well in the recently concluded T20 tournament and Ranji Trophy campaign. READ: Gujarat Lions team in IPL 2016 Auction Live Updates.

In the batting department, GL’s engine-room will remind fans of CSK, as McCullum, Smith and Raina have once again come together. The likes of Dinesh Karthik, Ishan Kishan and Paras Dogra add local flavour to the batting unit, which also boasts of Australia’s T20I captain Aaron Finch. Karthik, Kishan and Dwivedi provide wicketkeeping options to the side, while Bravo, Jadeja and Faulkner add strength and depth to the batting. Then there are others like Shadab Jakati, Pradeep Sangwan and Andrew Tye who provide options in the all-round department.

The Lions also appear very strong on paper when it comes to bowling. In Dale Steyn, Dhawal Kulkarni and the wily old fox Praveen Kumar, they have a potent pace attack. If the fast-bowling unit looks good, spinners Pravin Tambe, Sarabjit Ladda and Jakati too can win matches on their own. On the whole, barring the decision to include Jaydev Shah — which looks more like a politically motivated one rather cricketing, given that his father Niranjan Shah has a stronghold on Saurahstra Cricket Association, GL’s homeground — the team has made smart moves. Local boy Cheteshwar Pujara’s inclusion in place of Shah would have made more sense. Nevertheless, the team looks solid with the presence of explosive batsmen, effective bowlers and impactful all-rounders in its ranks. With this squad in place, the Raina led side have hit the bull’s eye and are already a contender even before the tournament starts. Here is Guajarat Lions’ complete squad:

All-rounders:

Player Country
Suresh Raina (captain) India
Ravindra Jadeja India
James Faulkner Australia
Dwayne Bravo West Indies
Dwayne Smith West Indies
Andrew Tye Australia
Shadab Jakati India
Jaydev Shah India
Akshdeep Nath India
Pradeep Sangwan India

Batsmen:

Player Country
Brendon McCullum New Zealand
Aaron Finch Australia
Umang Sharma India
Paras Dogra India

Bowlers:

Player Country
Dale Steyn South Africa
Praveen Kumar India
Dhawal Kulkarni India
Pravin Tambe India
Sarabjit Ladda India
Amit Mishra India
Shivil Kaushik India

Wicketkeepers:

Player Country
Dinesh Karthik India
Ishan Kishan India
Eklavya Dwivedi India

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricLife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)