Along with Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS), Gujarat Lions are the other new entrants in the IPL this season, making up for one of the two teams suspended due to corruption-related activities. Owned by Keshav Bansal of Intex Technologies, Gujarat will be led by Suresh Raina. The experienced Indian batsman had a terrible World T20, during which he hardly made any substantial contribution. Thus, he will be extremely keen to make an impact in the IPL.
In many ways, it is a no-win situation for Raina. If he does well, the opinion could be that he is only good for the IPL, and in case he fails, he will be termed a liability even in the IPL. It will be interesting to observe how Raina deals with the tough situation.
Star batsmen: Skipper Raina of course will be expected to lead from the front. After all, he is the most successful player in the league. Aaron Finch who, not so long ago, was leading Australia in T20s, should open the batting, and he should be accompanied by the just-retired but ever entertaining Brendon McCullum. The two, in tandem, are capable of getting the team off to sizzling starts. Then there is also Dinesh Karthik, who has blown hot and cold over the years. The other Indian batting talents, who are part of the squad are Paras Dogra and India U-19 World Cup skipper Ishan Kishan. A closer look suggests that Gujarat will depend heavily on Raina, McCullum and Finch.
Star Bowlers: In the bowling department, South African speedster Dale Steyn will be the key. He hasn't done much on the international level in recent times, and wasn't effective in the few WT20 games he played. Thus, Steyn will definitely have a point to prove. He will be backed by Praveen Kumar, who has run out of favour with Team India, but remains a force on the domestic circuit. Mumbai's pace-spin duo of Dhawal Kulkarni and Pravin Tambe are also part of the squad. It remains to be seen how they perform. Left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati, who is an IPL veteran, could also get a look-in.
All-round prowess: With both their batting and bowling slightly on the weaker side, Gujarat will be looking up to their all-rounders to stand up and make a mark. They have three very good ones at that. Dwayne Bravo, the versatile West Indian all-rounder and World Cup winner is right up there. If Gujarat want to progress far, Bravo will need to fire in a big way. Then, there is also Ravindra Jadeja, who may not have had a highly memorable WT20, but when it comes to IPL, he is definitely up there with the best in the business.
There is a third all-rounder, who can also make a significant difference, and he goes by the name of James Faulkner. The Aussie may have been shredded by Virat Kohli during the WT20 game between the two sides. But, he remains one of the most dangerous players in the format. His variations with the ball as well as his big-hitting ability with the bat can prove to be invaluable, provided he gets his act right.
-- By A Cricket Analyst