The Rising Pune Supergiants looked like they had pulled a masterstroke by getting MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming, who enjoyed so much success with CSK, together for their inaugural IPL season. However, hopes of emulating the CSK success did not quite work out, with RPS ending up second from bottom in IPL 2016.
Clearly, getting Dhoni and Fleming on board alone wasn't enough. Yes, they picked a few strong players and yes, one of the reasons for their struggles last season was injuries, but there were also quite a few holes that weren't filled, with the owners or coaching staff probably hoping Dhoni would just be able to cover it up and somehow get them into the playoffs.
Come the IPL 2017 player auction, RPS will need to buy quite a few players and make sure they make astute decisions. Looking at their squad as it stands, there are quite a few slots for them to fill, which suggests RPS are going to be one of the busier teams in this IPL auction.
RPS current squad: MS Dhoni (C), Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin, Steve Smith, Faf Du Plessis, Mitchell Marsh, Mayank Agarwal, Ashok Dinda, Ankush Bains, Rajat Bhatia, Ankit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Adam Zampa, Jaskaran Singh, Baba Aparijith, Deepak Chahar, Usman Khawaja.
Maximum number of players RPS can buy: 10 (four of them overseas).
Overseas bowlers: Looking at the current squad, it is quite clear RPS are seriously short in the bowling department. You could see Dhoni's frustration last season as his bowlers kept leaking too many runs and that is something the captain will want to arrest come IPL 2017.
In order to do that, the Pune franchise need to make some smart buys, starting with an overseas fast bowler or two. There are quite a few interesting options in the IPL 2017 Player Auction pool, and the key for RPS, who have Rs 17.5 crore to spend, will be to get them at the right price, which is always easier said than done.
Waiting for the right opportunity is key and not getting carried away with the first couple of fast bowlers that come up on the list will also play a massive part. Because RPS have a few holes to fill, they cannot afford to break the bank on one player.
Amongst the overseas bowlers, RPS are likely to take a look at Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills, all of England, while there are also solid options in Trent Boult, who could end up being a really good buy, Mitchell Johnson, Pat Cummins, Kyle Abbott and Kagiso Rabada.
Indian fast bowler(s): The most successful IPL teams are built on a strong Indian squad. With seven of the 11 players always needing to be from the home front, you need to have a strong Indian base to be successful. As it stands, RPS have Ashok Dinda and Ishwar Pandey as their Indian pace bowlers. There just isn't enough strength or depth in there.
Having released Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan and RP Singh, RPS clearly want a fresh batch of pace bowlers – they might choose to go with the right to match option for these pacers – but are there enough options? They might go for Abu Nechim, the former RCB bowler, or Aniket Choudhury, who recently impressed in a warm-up match against Bangladesh. Pawan Suyal, the left-arm pacer, is an option, while Nathu Singh has speed on his side. Not a whole lot of options, so RPS will need to be smart.
Help for R Ashwin: RPS decided to let M Ashwin go – probably to get him back for lesser money with the right to match option – so Dhoni does need a strong spinner to help Ashwin out. There is Ankit Sharma in the squad and Adam Zampa showed last season that he can pick up wickets, but Indian options are needed.
Pravin Tambe could prove to be a good option – he can be played as the leg-spinner when Zampa is left out – while Rahul Sharma is also another spinner RPS might have a crack at.
Indian batsman: While Faf Du Plessis, Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja are good options to have as the overseas batsmen, Dhoni also needs a few Indian ones he can rely on. Rahane will open the innings, Dhoni might come in at No.4 or 5, but he also needs one or two more batsmen who will be ready to contribute, apart from Mayank Agarwal, who was acquired in a trade.
Sourabh Tiwary was released after last season, but could come back in again, while there is a really young option to take up in Prithvi Shaw. Unmukt Chand is another batsman to look at, along with Priyank Panchal, who is coming off a wonderful Ranji season.
Cheteshwar Pujara might not be such a bad idea, either, would it?
Indian all-rounder: Pawan Negi might not have had a great IPL in 2016, but with his ability to bowl the four overs and smash a few at the end, he might end up being in demand again. RPS should make a move for Negi, because not only will he give Dhoni another spin option to go with Ashwin, but he could end up being the finisher they need, especially if the captain pushes himself up the order.