Lions ready to roar again

Lions ready to roar again

The Rajkot-based franchise made an immediate impact on its debut last season, topping the league stage with surprising ease.

With a perfect blend of big hitters, handy all-rounders and canny bowlers, the Suresh Raina-led team established itself as one of the top contenders for the title but, shockingly, fluffed two chances to qualify for the summit clash after their familiar failing came to haunt them -- their inability defend totals. It wasn’t, thus, surprising to see the Lions rope in a few bowlers during the February auction in Bengaluru.

They bought Australian paceman Andrew Tye and picked up Nathu Singh, Basil Thampi, Manpreet Gony and the veteran Munaf Patel from the domestic cricket to go with all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner. Dhawal Kulkarni was their trump card when it came to bowling but Ravindra Jadeja’s below-par show was their biggest setback. The left-arm spinning all-rounder, who has been in fine form in Tests for India, will prove an asset if he carries his confidence and form into the tournament but he is likely to skip a few matches at the start to rest his aching shoulders and limbs after a lengthy home season.

As usual, the Lions will bank heavily on their batting fire-power up front. Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik and the newly-acquired Jason Roy of England provide the team with multiple batting options. Karthik especially has been in sensational form and Lions will hope the Tamil Nadu batsman takes his form into the league. Lions will have selectoral issues while picking Finch and Smith who can be equally devastating in the top three but only one can be chosen to have the right balance. Lions will also hope McCullum will sustain his form through the season. The Kiwi right-hander who can win matches on his own, has a tendency to go off the boil as the season wears by.  

Having finished a creditable third in their first year itself, Lions will be aiming for an improved show this season.

Past performance: 2016: Third

The squad: Suresh Raina (captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Brendon McCullum, Jason Roy, Dwayne Bravo, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith, Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Ishan Kishan, Pradeep Sangwan, Shivil Kaushik, Shadab Jakati, Jaydev Shah, James Faulkner, Andrew Tye, Basil Thambi, Manpreet Gony, Nathu Singh, Tejas Singh Baroka, Munaf Patel, Aksh Deep Nath, Shubham Agarwal, Chirag Suri, Pratham Singh, Shelley Shaurya.

Dinesh Karthik: The wicketkeeper-batsman has been in the form of his life, having stacked up plenty of runs and helping his State side Tamil Nadu lift multiple limited-overs tournaments this domestic season. Along with his duties behind the stumps, the right-hander can be crucial in Lions’ march.     

Dwayne Bravo: The West Indies all-rounder has proven his worth over the years. As a T20 mercenary, he has plied his skills all over the world but he has left a lasting impression in this tournament. His intelligent bowling acquired over years of experience and an ability to use the long handle to good effect, make him as asset for any team.