As far as debuts go, Lucknow Supergiants did well to impress in what was the first step of what can be a very challenging journey at the Indian Premier League. Alongside Gujarat Titans, the new franchise amped up the auction dynamics during the two-day event by outbidding the existing franchises on more occasions than one. In the end, what they have is a well-rounded first XI with several multi-utility players, albeit a squad with a few obvious flaws.
We expected the Sanjiv Goenka-led management to do their homework and have their plans in place after the knowledge they acquired in their two-year stint with the Rising Pune Supergiant(s) in 2016 and 2017. Their to-the-point bidding in the auction seemed to have gone according to plans.
The insight of team mentor Gautam Gambhir, who has already had the experience of winning the title with Kolkata Knight Riders as captain, reflected in his dissection of the team during the auction. Although his presence was rather calm at the Lucknow auction table, head coach Andy Flower would have also played an active role in charting the auction strategy.
Lucknow Supergiants invested Rs 10 crore on fast bowler Avesh Khan, making him the most expensive uncapped player of the auction. They followed it up by investing Rs 8.75 crore in West Indies bowling all-rounder Jason Holder. Their other top buys were former Baroda all-rounder Deepak Hooda (Rs 5.75 crore) and current Baroda all-rounder Krunal Pandya (Rs 8.75 crore) and English fast bowler Mark Wood (Rs 7.50 crore).
Players signed by LSG
|Full name||Price (Rs cr)||Times over base price||Country||State Association||Age||Specialism||2021 Team||C/U/A||Base|
|Jason Holder||8.75||5.83||West Indies||30||ALL-ROUNDER||SRH||Capped||150|
|Quinton De Kock||6.75||3.38||South Africa||29||WICKETKEEPER||MI||Capped||200|
|Dushmanta Chameera||2.00||4.00||Sri Lanka||30||BOWLER||Capped||50|
|Evin Lewis||2.00||1.00||West Indies||30||BATSMAN||RR||Capped||200|
|Ankit Singh Rajpoot||0.50||2.50||India||UPCA||28||BOWLER||Uncapped||20|
|Kyle Mayers||0.50||1.00||West Indies||29||ALL-ROUNDER||Capped||50|
Possible best playing XI
Like several other teams, Lucknow prioritised locking in players for their XI first. Since they had already added KL Rahul, Marcus Stoinis and Ravi Bishnoi, it meant they now had a player each in what they called the “three pillars” of the team during the player retentions.
LSG full squad and Possible XI
|LSG||Price (Rs Cr)||Overseas|
|1||KL Rahul (C)||17|
|2||Quinton de Kock (wk)||6.75||OS|
|12||Ankit Singh Rajpoot||0.5|
One of the most exciting things about this team apart from its novelty is the bowling duo of Avesh Khan and Mark Wood. While the former can clock 140-145 kmph, the latter can bowl at 145-150 kmph and that lethal pace in a bowling attack in T20s is a double-edged sword but in acquiring the two, it definitely looks good on paper.
Regarding the bid for Avesh and the role he was expected to play, Gambhir had clearly stated during the auction that they were looking at him from the perspective of longevity as the Indian fast bowling group would only get smaller especially from the pace point of view. They wanted to build their pace attack with someone young like him because the chances of him becoming a mainstay in the years to come are much higher. Gambhir even went so far as telling Star Sports, if he was an analyst in the studio, then he might have found the bid amount for Avesh to be on the higher side but the side really wanted one of the two in Prasidh Krishna and the former DC pacer.
They have a strong opening duo in Rahul and Quinton de Kock who could complement each other but their middle order is also assuring.
Their XI is stacked with all-rounders of literally all kinds. From a pace-bowling all-rounder in Jason Holder and batting all-rounder in Marcus Stoinis to a batting all-rounder who can bowl right-arm spin in Deepak Hooda and a left-arm spin bowling all-rounder who can bat in Krunal Pandya. Add to the equation K Gowtham and they have their all-rounder regiment all sorted. The three Indians will also back leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi to make a diverse spin attack.
It is also safe to say that they have one of the strongest Indian cores in the tournament with KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Krunal Pandya, Deepak Hooda, K Gowtham, Ravi Bishnoi and Avesh Khan. They all have the potential to be match-winners in their own right and that reduces the dependence on their overseas stars to create an impact.
The addition of Mark Wood adds excitement to the squad but one must also be wary of his lack of playing experience in IPL. Things could go south if he does not turn up to be the partner Lucknow were seeking for Avesh.
Additionally, they will also need the Karnataka duo of Manish Pandey and KL Rahul to not adopt the T20 anchor role simultaneously. The former had a relatively dull IPL 2021 and Gambhir can be expected to nudge him into rewinding to the Kolkata Knight Riders’ days.
Although Bishnoi can be the spin-wicket-taking match-winner for them, his back-up Shahbaz Nadeem has not shined in this format for quite some time now. Hooda, Gowtham and Pandya are great spin options but there still seems to be lacking a frontline spinner who can turn things around, in case Bishnoi doesn’t click or has to sit out for whatever reason.
They also have one of the thinnest squads in the league with a mere 21 players and no purse remaining and that is a tricky terrain considering these bio-bubble times.
And, have Deepak Hooda and Krunal Pandya cleared things out? It was a question on everyone’s minds as Lucknow completed its squad. They’re professional cricketers and they know a thing or two about working things out in what can be “workplace” issues but what panned out in the Baroda set-up in 2021 was enough for Hooda to shift to playing professionally for Rajasthan. One can hope that is sorted in order to prevent any infighting within the set-up, on or off the field. Captain Rahul will have a role in trying to maintain the team dynamics.
Who’s saying what
LSG owner Sanjeev Goenka: “We wanted to go for spinners and we wanted to go for multi-utility spinners. So, that’s worked. I think the team looks very balanced. We have a number of multi-dimensional players which is what we were looking at.”
Team mentor Gautam Gambhir: “We wanted someone like a Quinton at the top with KL (Rahul) because we wanted to free him up from his keeping responsibilities. It just probably makes a better decision maker on the field. Sometimes, being a keeper and a captain and an opening batsman can be very, very strenuous.”