Having had the privilege of picking first from the draft, and then going on to select one world-class player after another, the Rising Pune Supergiants (now the Rising Pune Supergiant) would have envisaged conquering all during IPL 2016. Unfortunately, things did not quite work that way.
MS Dhoni's side failed to gather any sort of momentum and with injuries playing a big role as well, they ended up disappointing last season.
The plan, naturally, will be for that to change. They have appointed a new captain in Steve Smith, spent some outrageous money on a single player and look determined to finish amongst the top four, before making a run for the IPL 2017 title.
Here is a look at the RPS team for this season – their players, squad, captain, auction buys and chances in IPL 2017.
How did last season go?
Not according to plan. Despite having Dhoni as captain and Stephen Fleming as the coach – the old winning CSK partnership – RPS could manage just five wins in their 14 matches. They avoided the wooden spoon, with KXIP doing even worse, but the Rising Pune Supergiant never looked right, finishing in seventh place.
Who are the new players coming in? Any interesting buys during the IPL 2017 Player auction?
Ben Stokes was the headline buy, and that was pretty much it for RPS at the IPL 2017 auction as far as big signings were concerned. They went all out for Stokes and got the England all-rounder for Rs 14 crore. With all that money spent, there will be a lot of pressure on Stokes to perform. RPS need him to be a hit in IPL 2017.
They bought two more overseas players – Dan Christian and Lockie Ferguson – for Rs 1 crore and Rs 50 lakh respectively, while six Indian players also came in, at modest prices.
Manoj Tiwary (Rs 50 lakh), Jaydev Unadkat (Rs 30 lakh), Rahul Chahar (Rs 10 lakh), Saurabh Kumar (Rs 10 lakh), Milind Tandon (Rs 10 lakh) and Rahul Ajay Tripathi (Rs 10 lakh) were the Indian players that were bought during the auction in February. Shardul Thakur was taken in a trade from the Kings XI Punjab.
There is one more new player in Imran Tahir, and he could prove to be the most important them of all. The leg-spinner, who went unsold at the auction, was roped in by RPS after Mitchell Marsh was ruled out of IPL 2017 through injury.
What about the overseas players from last season? Who stands out and must perform?
There are quite a few big names in this RPS side. Steve Smith is the new captain, taking over from Dhoni. Smith is coming off a controversial India vs Australia Test series, so there will be a lot of pressure on him to perform, just to try and make everyone forget about all that went on in those four matches, Form, however, hasn't been a problem for Smith, who knows one thing in cricket – score runs.
Runs will also be needed from Faf Du Plessis, who is expected to open the innings alongside Ajinkya Rahane.
Adam Zampa had a couple of really good games last season and the leg-spinner could come in handy again, while Usman Khawaja is unlikely to get too many games, unless injuries play a role.
And the Indian players?
Dhoni is not the captain anymore and that could free the veteran up. Hopefully, we get to see some vintage Dhoni innings in IPL 2017.
Rahane is another really important player. He needs to be the base around which RPS build their scores, so it goes without saying consistency at the top will be key for the India international.
With RPS losing R Ashwin through injury, they are seriously short in the spin department as far as a local player is concerned.
Pune do not really have an established Indian fast bowler, either, and that could hurt them this season.
What does the entire squad look like?
Really strong in certain areas, but quite weak in a few others as well. Therefore, they will bank on their match-winners – and there are quite a few of them – to get them into the top four.
Squad: Indians: MS Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Sharma, Baba Aparajith, Ankush Bains, Rajat Bhatia, Deepak Chahar, Rahul Chahar, Ashok Dinda, Ishwar Pandey, Jaskaran Singh, Saurabh Kumar, Milind Tandon, Manoj Tiwary, Jaydev Unadkat, Rahul Tripathi, Shardul Thakur.
Overseas: Steve Smith (C), Dan Christian, Faf Du Plessis, Lockie Ferguson, Imran Tahir, Usman Khawaja, Ben Stokes, Adam Zampa.
When is their opening match?
It is a big Maharashtra derby against the Mumbai Indians on Thursday, April 6.
What can we expect from RPS this season?
They should improve. Much will depend on their superstar players. But, what works for them is that they do have quite a few of them. Smith, Rahane and Du Plessis will be key for the runs and it will be interesting to see where Dhoni plays. Will he come in at No.4 or play as a finisher?
The bowling is the weakness – Stokes will need to chip in with wickets as well as going slam-bang with the bat – but RPS have the star power to finish in the top four, provided they avoid injuries to their big players.