Likely first XI
Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Faf du Plessis, Steven Smith (capt), Ben Stokes, MS Dhoni (wk), Rajat Bhatia, Shardul Thakur, Ankit Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Imran Tahir
Batsmen – Usman Khawaja, B Aparajith, Ankush Bains, Manoj Tiwary
Bowlers – Ishwar Pandey, Saurabh Kumar, Adam Zampa, Jaskaran Singh, Deepak Chahar, Jaydev Unadkat, Lockie Ferguson, Rahul Chahar
Allrounders – Dan Christian, Rahul Tripathi, Milind Tandon
They have arguably the best batsman in the world, the best finisher, and the best allrounder. Smith, Dhoni and Stokes form the crux of a robust middle order that is capable of blitzing targets as well as accumulating scores. Then there is the legspinner Tahir, the current No. 1 bowler in T20 cricket, who was rather surprisingly overlooked at the auction in February. Zampa was the surprise package in IPL 2016, peeling off 12 wickets in five matches at an economy rate of 6.76, and he enters this season with an enhanced reputation after productive stints with the Australian team and Guyana Amazon Warriors in the CPL. He could even jostle Tahir out of the playing XI should Supergiant opt to play just one spinner.
No less than six Supergiant players – du Plessis, Kevin Pietersen, Smith, Mitchell Marsh, M Ashwin and Deepak Chahar – suffered injuries in 2016 with all four overseas names pulling out midway through the last season. They have now lost R Ashwin and Marsh even before the start of this season. Sports hernia has stripped Supergiant of their only frontline offspinner while their two left-arm fingerspinners, Ankit and Saurabh, lack T20 experience – the latter is yet to play an IPL match. Supergiant’s worries extend to their seam attack too. Thakur, who was acquired from Kings XI Punjab, might feel the aftereffects of a long domestic season as the IPL wears on: he bowled 417.3 overs across formats – the second-most by a seamer. Unadkat and Pandey are similar bowlers to RP Singh and Ishant Sharma, who were released from the squad.