On the face of it, appointing MS Dhoni as Pune franchise’s captain was all but a formality after he became the team’s first pick in the IPL player draft on December 15. The official announcement on Monday didn’t spring any surprise, but the franchise owner Sanjiv Goenka insisted that the selection has been made after “a lot of deliberations”.
Steve Smith and Faf du Plessis were Dhoni’s nearest competitors. The former now leads 50-over world champions Australia across formats, while du Plessis is in charge of the South African T20 team. Dhoni, however, towers over them with his leadership pedigree and achievements and Pune made the safe choice for the upcoming season.
“Yes, we have three captains in our team and we are proud of that. All three are outstanding leaders who will be part of the leadership group. But looking into all aspects, we felt Dhoni should be the best choice.
“Dhoni is someone who has shown tremendous leadership in all formats of the game that he has played. We have great confidence in him as the captain of our team,” Goenka said. When a reporter pointed out India’s recent string of limited-overs losses under Dhoni, he said: “Winning and losing are part of the game. Dhoni has demonstrated his great leadership qualities for a long period.”
The new IPL franchise that would now be called Rising Pune SuperGiants, had earlier roped in Stephen Fleming as their head coach. So it’s a Chennai Super Kings reunion of sorts in new colours. Are they mulling on bringing in Michael Hussey as well?
“This is not CSK. This is our team. This is Pune. Just because somebody was in Chennai doesn’t mean he will be here as well,” Goenka said, adding: “Dhoni and Fleming form a great combination. The player auction is on February 6 and we will go with whoever we believe is in the best interest of our team.” He explained the idea behind the naming of the franchise. “Pune is a city which is famous for its courage, grit, planning and never-say-die attitude. We have five giant cricketers. We are a new team and we want to rise.”
Pune and Rajkot are replacing the banned Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. Their duration of stay would be for two years only, which doesn’t give them an opportunity to plan long-term. Little wonder then that Goenka and his franchise, at the moment, are focusing solely on the 2016. They want to make an instant impact. “Just because we are a new team, that cannot be an excuse for lack of performance on the field. We have to do what we have to do. We have to make sure that we perform well, and we are very confident of doing that.”
Goenka has IPL governing council member Sourav Ganguly as a business partner (La Liga club Atletico Madrid, alongside businessmen Harshvardhan Neotia and Utsav Parekh are other stakeholders) of his ISL football team Atletico de Kolkata. There’s an allegation of potential conflict of interest with a complaint being filed before the BCCI’s independent ombudsman Justice AP Shah. Asked about this, the Pune franchise owner said: “I have nothing to say on this matter. It’s not for me to react. It’s for the ombudsman to react.”
Meanwhile, Raghu Iyer – he was with the Royals since their inception – has been appointed as the CEO of RP-Sanjiv Goenka group Sports Vertical.