Suresh Raina to lead Gujarat Lions in the IPL
Suresh Raina has been named captain of the new Rajkot IPL franchise, which will be called Gujarat Lions, and former Australia batsman Brad Hodge has been appointed head coach of the team. Keshav Bansal, the owner of Intex, the company that bought the franchise, made the announcements in Delhi on Tuesday.
The four other players in the Gujarat Lions at present are New Zealand batsman Brendon McCullum, West Indies allrounder Dwayne Bravo, India allrounder Ravindra Jadeja, Australia allrounder James Faulkner. They were picked at a player draft in December, when five cricketers who had belonged to the suspended Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals franchises were available for selection. The franchise will fill up its roster at the IPL player auction on February 6. Teams are allowed to have up to 18 Indian players and nine overseas players in total on their roster.
Raina had previously played for Super Kings, who were suspended for two years by the Lodha committee in the fallout of the spot-fixing controversy. He holds the distinction of never having missed an IPL game since the tournament began in 2008, and is the league's top scorer with 3699 runs at a strike rate of 140 in 132 matches. Raina had recently made a comeback to the India T20 squad for the tour of Australia, and he made an unbeaten 49 in Sydney as India swept the series 3-0.
Hodge was appointed to his first full-time coaching role by the franchise, which had also been in discussions with former South African opener Gary Kirsten, who was axed by Delhi Daredevils as coach after two seasons. Hodge, who is currently playing in the Masters Champions League, had originally put his name in the IPL auction's long list. He had listed his base price as INR 5,000,000 but when the final short list was published by the IPL last weekend, he had withdrawn his name.
In an interview with ESPNcricinfo last year, Hodge had said he was a "little bit of a pioneer" in Twenty20 cricket, having shaped the way Australian batsmen approached the shortest format. For the last couple of seasons Hodge, 41, performed the dual role of assistant coach and player for Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League. Hodge was the Strikers captain and his side made the semi-finals, which they lost to eventual champions Sydney Thunder.
Hodge also played for three IPL franchises - Kolkata Knight Riders, Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Rajasthan Royals. One of the few 40-year olds still active in the game, Hodge was the first batsman to make 5000 runs in the Twenty20 format, and is presently second after Chris Gayle. Hodge is one of the very few players to have played 250 first-class matches and an equal number of Twenty20 games.