Photo courtesy: Getty Images
Photo courtesy: Getty Images

There were no surprises on Tuesday during the IPL draft as the New Rising-owned Pune franchise bagged MS Dhoni as the first pick. The first battle was won there by the Sanjiv Goenka-owned side. Having a side operational for just two years meant both Pune and Rajkot were looking beyond trophies, and in Dhoni, Pune have a package. Having captained Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to six IPL finals (including two title wins), Dhoni not only wins matches but has a brand value unmatched. Yes, even after a year of his Test retirement.

The two sides — Team Pune and Team Rajkot — replacing CSK and Rajasthan Royals (RR), had to select five players each from a pool of 50 from the suspended franchises. While Pune picked Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Steven Smith and Faf du Plessis; Rajkot went for Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum, James Faulkner and Dwayne Bravo.

The teams have made some wise decisions, and the only notable omission being that of Shane Watson. In terms of star value both sides have done well. For Rajkot, they have two of the best exponents of the T20 format in Raina and McCullum. They have grabbed local flavour by picking Jadeja. Bravo, too, enjoys a good fan-following in India. Read: Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum among players picked by Rajkot franchise for IPL 2016

Pune, however, hold the edge by nabbing the big fish Dhoni. It’s a massive boost to their brand value and Dhoni is bound to bring in a vast fan-following to the side. While Dhoni takes care of the cosmopolitan part of city, they score high on the local front too, with Rahane being the perfect Marathi face to represent the side. Ashwin, on the other hand, enjoys a good fan base all over the country thanks to his growth as a cricketer, and Smith already enjoys a good rapport with Pune crowd thanks to his stint with the Sahara-owned Pune Warriors India (PWI); he now returns as Australian captain and one of the best players in the world. Pune is bound to draw support from foreign shores too. Read:MS Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane to play for Team Pune in IPL 2016

Pune also has the edge over the Intex-owned Rajkot side in terms of team management, for they have successfully run their Indian Super League (ISL) franchise Atletico de Kolkata, co-owned by Sourav Ganguly (incidentally, a former PWI captain).

Looking at the sides, Pune have focused on batting. In Rahane and du Plessis they have solid men at the top; Smith is a floater who can anchor and unleash himself at will; and in Dhoni they have a dangerous finisher. Ashwin is the only specialist bowler in Pune, and the sides bowling will revolve around him. In comparison, Rajkot have three quality all-rounders in Jadeja, Faulkner and Bravo. Read: Suresh Raina: Will not lack ‘sportsman spirit’ when pitted against MS Dhoni’s team in IPL 2016

Considering Watson is available, he may be a good buy for Pune, as they don’t have a quality all-rounder. The other options they may look to explore are Chris Morris (who has earlier played under Dhoni for CSK), Stuart Binny and Rajat Bhatia. Historically, Dhoni has preferred to go with a predominantly Indian bowling attack, so it won’t be a surprise if Mohit Sharma and Ashish Nehra are picked in auctions. Of late Nehra has enjoyed Dhoni’s confidence and was a star for CSK last season. Having played for PWI in earlier seasons will be an added benefit for Nehra.

Dhoni also likes to play his spinners and showed a lot of faith in Pawan Negi last season, another potential good buy. The management can also go for leg-spinner Rahul Sharma, who had successful seasons for PWI. Pravin Tambe can be a dark horse: the 44-year-old leg-spinner has played a lot of cricket across Maharashtra. There are also a few good Indian batsmen up for grabs, especially Karun Nair and Deepak Hooda. Sanju Samson is another option and can be a reliable back-up for Dhoni as a wicketkeeper.

New Rising is a Kolkata-based group. Their representative Subrata Talukdar took pride in mentioning on Tuesday that the likes of Manoj Tiwary, Ashok Dinda and Wriddhiman Saha are employed to them. Considering Bengal stalwarts Tiwary and Dinda are in fringes for Delhi Daredevils (DD) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) respectively, in order to mutually benefit, the group may look to trade these players from their respective franchises. Dinda has also played for PWI in the past picking 25 wickets from 20 outings. The addition of Tiwary will give them an option to play an experienced domestic batsman. In earlier editions, Dhoni has benefitted by playing S Badrinath for CSK; Tiwary, who has played some crucial knocks for his former side Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) helping them win the trophy in 2012, may well fit into that role.

While the players gear up for the ICC World T20 2016, the next two months will be crucial for these two new sides on figuring out their right team.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)