IPL 2017 T20: MS Dhoni still part of Rising Pune Supergiants’ brain’s trust.
It was at Pune’s MCA Stadium that Mahendra Singh Dhoni played his first match for India (ODI against England) after stepping down as national captain of the limited-overs team.
It will again be here that the double World Cup-winning player will feature in his first Indian Premier League match where he will not be the captain, when Rising Pune Supergiants face Mumbai Indians in their opening game on Thursday.
Rising Pune Supergiants owner, Sanjiv Goenka, caused some controversy following his surprise decision to replace Dhoni, appointing Australia skipper Steven Smith instead for IPL 10.
It was a bolt from the blue for Indian cricket lovers and Dhoni fans. Although Goenka recently announced it was all done ‘amicably’, Smith’s comment in the same pre-season news conference that he is not going to crowd his mind with opinion from too many people fuelled speculation whether there was some animosity between the new skipper and the man he replaced.
Dhoni staying away from the promotional activities of the Pune team has only fuelled the fire.
Smith, Dhoni, Fleming Chats
However, if one goes by Wednesday’s pre-match preparation to take on Mumbai Indians, the twice former champions, at the MCA Stadium here on Thursday, Dhoni seems to be Smith’s go-to man.
The two were seen having long chats in between their net sessions. Smith was seen picking the brains of a player who led for nine straight IPL seasons.
The Aussie skipper could have sought insight on the domestic players’ strengths and weaknesses. A little later, coach Stephen Fleming, Smith and Dhoni were seen having an intense discussion, which was a good indicator that the former India skipper is very much part of the decision-making process.
Smith chose not to reveal how he will use Dhoni in his plans. “I am not going to share anything here with you all. But we will see once we get down in the middle,” is all Smith said at the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
Smith made it clear that his expectations are quite high from England all-rounder Ben Stokes, who was acquired by Pune for a record Rs 14.5 crore in the auction, the highest price paid for an overseas player in IPL.
Stokes, Dhoni roles
Smith expects Stokes to finish the games, more often than not. “He (Ben Stokes) is a big, strong boy. He can hit the ball a long way. And that is why we got him. We paid big price for him and got him on our books. We obviously have him and MS Dhoni as well, who can hit the ball a very long way. I think for us to have a good tournament, (we need) those guys to score some runs for us at the backend and in the middle overs as well. It will be exciting,” Smith said.
Towards the end of his limited-overs captaincy, Dhoni gave an indication that his days as a finisher was over. Thursday could be a perfect opportunity to show those helicopter shots again.
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