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Feature

Depth, variety give Lucknow Super Giants formidable first XI

A lack of bench strength, especially with the bat, could be a weakness over a long season

Sreshth Shah
Sreshth Shah
20-Mar-2022
Will KL Rahul bat differently from his days as Punjab Kings captain?  •  Lucknow Super Giants

Will KL Rahul bat differently from his days as Punjab Kings captain?  •  Lucknow Super Giants

Potential first XI

1 KL Rahul (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Marcus Stoinis, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Krunal Pandya, 7 Jason Holder, 8 K Gowtham, 9 Ravi Bishnoi, 10 Avesh Khan, 11 Dushmantha Chameera

Availability

Signed for INR 7.5 crore at the auction, England quick Mark Wood has been ruled out of the entire season with an elbow injury sustained in the West Indies. The team has named the Australian slower-ball specialist Andrew Tye as his replacement. Marcus Stoinis, Jason Holder and Kyle Mayers are also expected to be available only after the first week of the IPL due to their respective national commitments.

Batting

Quinton de Kock can be aggressive in the powerplay and can play the long innings too. But whether KL Rahul chooses to anchor or go all-out is the big question.
With Manish Pandey, who has gone a strike rate of 127.52 in the last three IPL seasons, likely to slot in at No. 3, Rahul could possibly be the second powerplay attacker alongside de Kock, leaving Pandey to hold one end up if an early wicket falls.
In Stoinis and Deepak Hooda, Lucknow Super Giants have players who can attack from ball one, and a left-hand option in Krunal Pandya along with Holder to cap off the batting order gives Super Giants the flexibility to exploit any available match-up. A deep line-up could also allow the likes of Rahul and Pandey to go harder at the top than they did at their earlier franchises, which both suffered from a lack of depth.
As the season progresses, and depending on how the team balances out, Stoinis could also open the batting - as he did with Delhi Capitals as a one-off, and has regularly done with Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League.
But that's about it for the batting. Beyond the first-choice players, Super Giants lack solid back-up options other than Evin Lewis. He could be a like-for-like switch for de Kock since Rahul can keep wickets. The other choices are Mayers, who has T20 strike rate of 116 and is an unknown IPL quantity, and Manan Vohra, who generally bats at top of the order, an area where Super Giants are well-stocked.

Bowling

Super Giants' bowling options might make other teams envious. They have eight bowlers in their potential first XI. Avesh Khan and Dushmantha Chameera bring pace, Holder offers control and poses problems with his high release point, Stoinis bowls cutters that can be useful at the death, and there is a smorgasbord of spin options with wristspinner Ravi Bishnoi, offspinner K Gowtham, left-arm spinner Krunal and the part-time offbreaks of Hooda.
Beyond the first XI, Indian quick Ankit Rajpoot is a like-for-like replacement for the Sri Lankan Chameera, in case Super Giants want to bring in an extra overseas batter like Lewis or Mayers. Tye's pace variations, meanwhile, make him a useful option on slower pitches.
Shahbaz Nadeem is another experienced left-arm spin option, while left-arm seamer Mohsin Khan from Uttar Pradesh, who has spent considerable time with Mumbai Indians, could offer something different. He has an impressive average of 19.33 and an economy rate of 7.08 in 26 T20 games.

Young player to watch out for

At 21, wristspinner Bishnoi is the most exciting young prospect in the team, and one who has a realistic chance of being a regular in the XI. He was given a massive boost of confidence after being retained pre-auction for INR 4 crore, and is now part of India's T20I squad too, and won the Player-of-the-Match award on international debut.
Last season, he went for 25 runs or fewer - in four-over spells - in six of his seven outings for Punjab Kings, and his quick-arm mix of predominantly googlies with the odd legbreak thrown in makes him hard to put away. He attacks the right-handers' stumps, and uses his wrong'un to make left-handers reach for the ball and take the leg side out of the equation.
Bishnoi was the emerging player of the tournament in IPL 2020, his first season, and is a livewire on the field.

Coaching staff

Andy Flower (head coach), Vijay Dahiya (assistant coach), Gautam Gambhir (mentor) and Andy Bichel (bowling coach)

Poll

Mar 25 The piece was updated after Andrew Tye was named as Mark Wood's replacement.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx