The Rising Pune Supergiants had quite a strong team coming into IPL 2016 with an abundance of quality players in their squad which included the charismatic MS Dhoni in addition to the likes of Steve Smith, Faf du Plessis, Kevin Pietersen, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane. The new franchise began the tournament brilliantly by registering a comprehensive win over defending champions Mumbai Indians in the opening match of the tournament.
However, this was followed by four successive defeats and the withdrawal of the likes of Smith, Du Plessis, Pietersen and Mitchell Marsh due to injuries, only made things worse for the Supergiants. They eventually ended the tournament in seventh position, above bottom-placed Kings XI Punjab.
The Supergiants bought Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur and Karnataka batsman Mayank Agarwal, and also the big buy of England all-rounder Ben Stokes at a whopping Rs. 14.5 crore, thus making the Englishman the most expensive buy of the auction. Other overseas buys included Australian all-rounder Dan Christian and New Zealand’s Lockie Ferguson.
After Mitchell Marsh was ruled out of the IPL due to a shoulder injury, the Supergiants brought in South African spinner Imran Tahir as his replacement. The Supergiants suffered another huge blow yesterday when Ravichandran Ashwin was ruled out of the IPL due to a sports hernia.
The coaching staff of the Supergiants has remained the same as it was last year and contains names that Indian cricket fans are very familiar with as one of them has achieved IPL success as a coach while the other has achieved success at the World Cup as a part of the support staff.
Here is all you need to know about the coaching staff of the Rising Pune Supergiants for IPL 2017.
Coach - Stephen Fleming
The head coach of the team is legendary New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming. Fleming led the New Zealand cricket team for a decade from 1997 till his retirement from international cricket in 2008 and is regarded as one the greatest captains the Black Caps ever had.
Following his international retirement, Fleming joined the Chennai Super Kings as a player during the inaugural IPL in 2008. Fleming played 10 matches throughout the entire tournament, as a replacement for the injured Matthew Hayden, scoring 196 runs at an average of 21.77 and a strike rate of 118.78 with a 40-ball 45 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore at Chennai being his highest IPL score.
The following season, Fleming became the coach of the team and led the team to successive IPL titles in 2010 and 2011 and three finals in 2012, 2013, and 2015. The Kiwi also coached CSK to two Champions League T20 titles in 2010 and 2014.
After CSK were given a two-year suspension by the Lodha Committee, Fleming was appointed the coach of the new franchise Rising Pune Supergiants. However, he endured a pretty disappointing first season, despite the side having the Dhoni-Fleming combination which worked wonders for the Chennai Super Kings.
This year, RPS have some pretty brilliant players in their squad even after the exclusion of Mitch Marsh and Ravichandran Ashwin, so it will be interesting to see how Fleming works with new captain Steve Smith to make this season a memorable one for the Supergiants.
Assistant Coach - Hrishikesh Kanitkar
Hrishikesh Kanitkar had a very fruitful Ranji Trophy career, scoring 10,400 runs at a brilliant average of 52.26, scoring 46 fifties and 33 hundreds with 290 being his highest first-class score. He also took 74 wickets with the ball. Throughout his first-class career, Kanitkar played for Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. During his cricketing career, Kanitkar also played for the Brentwood Cricket Club in the Essex Premier League for a year.
Kanitkar led Rajasthan to their only Ranji Trophy triumph during the 2010-11 season and retired in 2015. Even though Kanitkar enjoyed a very successful domestic career, the same cannot be said of his international career. He made his ODI debut in 1997 and made sporadic appearances for the national team till 2000.
In his ODI career, Kanitkar scored 339 runs in 34 ODIs, scoring a fifty against Australia. He also played two Tests during India’s tour of Australia in the 1999-00 season.
Kanitkar’s finest hour in international cricket is hitting the winning runs during the Silver Jubilee Independence Cup final against Pakistan in the penultimate delivery of the match to chase down 314 which was considered to be the highest total chased in ODI history at the time.
Kanitkar had been appointed the assistant coach of the now defunct Kochi Tuskers Kerala for the 2011 IPL but he walked out of the contract before the commencement of the tournament due to disagreements with the owners.
Five years later in 2016, he was appointed the assistant coach of the Rising Pune Supergiants. Even after Pune’s dismal performance in last year’s IPL, Kanitkar continues to be their assistant coach and will be looking to help Stephen Fleming change their fortunes this time around.
Bowling Coach - Eric Simons
Eric Simons played for South Africa from 1994-1995 and played 23 ODIs for them, scoring 217 runs and picking up 33 wickets with 4/42 against Pakistan at Cape Town being his best bowling figures. Simons was also the coach of the South African team when they hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup. However, the team narrowly missed out on a place in the Super Sixes and were knocked out in the first round.
After his stint with South Africa, Simons joined the support staff of the Indian cricket team as their bowling consultant in 2010 and was a part of the staff that helped India win the 2011 Cricket World Cup. After leaving the Indian team in 2012, Simons was appointed as the coach of the Delhi Daredevils for the 2012 IPL and coached the team to third position and to the semi-finals of the Champions League T20 that year.
Simons returned to the IPL last year as the coach of the Rising Pune Supergiants but had a disappointing season as the team ended seventh. However, this year, the bowling department of RPS looks pretty decent with the addition of Ben Stokes, Imran Tahir, Adam Zampa and Lockie Ferguson as useful overseas bowling options.
The Indian bowling department does not have Ashwin but does have Ashok Dinda and Ishwar Pandey who have a lot of potential. Hence, Simons might have a big influence on the RPS bowlers this year.