Captaining a franchise other than Chennai Super Kings (CSK) for the first time, an emotional Mahendra Singh Dhoni said on Monday that he is looking forward to the challenge of leading the newly formed Rising Pune Supergiants in the Indian Premier League (IPL).Dhoni had been a part of CSK since the launch of the IPL in 2008, leading the team to consecutive title triumphs in 2010 and 2011. But with CSK and inaugural edition winners Rajasthan Royals suspended from the tournament for the next two years due to match fixing and corruption charges, the India team captain was picked up by the Pune franchise for the next couple of seasons.
"After eight years of IPL it feels very different to lead a different team. After eight years at CSK, if you ask me to say that I am very happy to be in a new team it would be difficult for me. I am grateful to the franchise and the people of Chennai for all the love and affection. I would be lying if I say that I have moved on. The emotional connect is a special part of being a human being," Dhoni told the media at the launch of the Supergiants' team jersey here. "The next two years will be very special and as I said we will try to interact more, and at the same time will try our best that the team will perform well on the field. The players will try to justify the faith that the owners have shown in us," he added.
Dhoni however, pointed out that the newly formed franchises Pune and Gujarat Lions will find it difficult to find their feet in their first year in the IPL as the other teams already have settled squads."We have a good team on paper, but we will have to play to our potential. The likes of Saurabh Tiwary and Albie Morkel could be crucial in crunch situations. The IPL will be exciting this year," he said."But the six original teams already have settled squads. The two new teams will have to find their balance and settle down quickly. If you are working with a core group of players right from the start, it is easier to know your weaknesses and how to adjust to a particular situation. But in a new team, you have to start all over again," Dhoni added.
This year's IPL auction threw up several surprises as quite a few young Indian players commanded higher prices than experienced international stars. Rookie all-rounder Pawan Negi was the second most expensive player as he was bought by the Delhi Daredevils for Rs.8.5 crore. Tamil Nadu leg-spinner Murugan Ashwin and rookie fast bowler Nathu Singh were among other young Indian players to rake in the big bucks. Ashwin was bought by Pune for a whopping Rs.4.5 crore. Nathu, who had grabbed the headlines by making it to the BOard President's XI during South Africa's tour of India late last year, was picked up by Mumbai Indians for a whopping Rs 3.2 crores. Both will make their IPL debuts this year.Dhoni insisted that the franchises were justified in their decision to shell out big money for relatively unknown players."It all depends on the combination that you are looking for in your team. You look for a player who may be a bit expensive, but will provide that crucial balance to the team. When we brought in (Ravindra) Jadeja, we got a player who added stability to the team with his all-round ability," the 34-year-old said.
"Murali Ashwin is a leg-spinner. He used to bowl regularly at the CSK nets. Now he is also representing Tamil Nadu at the domestic level. Leg-spinners can always win you games."Although the IPL has attracted a lot of negative publicity due to the match fixing scandal, Dhoni was adamant that the cash-rich Twenty20 league remains a force for good."The IPL has got its share of bad name. But at the same time, it has also revealed a lot of young talent. One of the biggest factors in international cricket is handling the pressure. But thanks to the IPL, now you see youngsters playing in front of crowds of 40,000 and more without any pressure," he said.