The Rajkot franchise of the Indian Premier League (IPL), one of the two new teams introduced for the next two editions, unveiled its team name and logo here on Tuesday, christening itself as the Gujarat Lions, while announcing middle-order batsman Suresh Raina as its skipper.
The team, along with Rising Pune Supergiants, will replace the suspended Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) for the 2016 and 2017 seasons and made the key announcements in an unveiling ceremony on Sunday, headed by the Intex team's owner Keshav Bansal and Raina, who has just returned from India's tour of Australia.
Also among the key announcements was the name of veteran Australian batsman Brad Hodge as the team's coach.
Bansal said the team’s name was chosen through an online poll and Rajkot will be its home ground. “The team name was chosen after a poll on social media where Gujarat Lions was the most voted name,” said Bansal. “Our home ground will be Rajkot. We are in talks with Gujarat government and may come up with an academy there,” he added.
Raina, who played for the Chennai Super Kings since the beginning of the cash-rich league in 2008 and is the highest scorer T20 cricket, was excited about his new innings as a skipper of a new team.
“I urge everyone to support Gujarat Lions, the first IPL team from the region,” he said.
He, however, didn’t forget his skipper at CSK – MS Dhoni – during the unveiling and was all in awe of his captain at the club and national level. “I played [at CSK] with the greatest captain and came out as a better player,” he said.
Chennai was the most successful team in the IPL with two titles and ending runners-up four times. They also won the inter-club world T20 competition – the now-defunct Champion League T20 - twice, and Dhoni and Raina remained integral parts of the side throughout its golden period.
CSK and RR have been suspended for two years by a Supreme Court-appointed committee after the Chennai team's official Gurunath Meiyappan and Rajasthan co-owner Raj Kundra were found guilty of betting in the league.
Reminding his time with Dhoni, Raina said it be a different experience altogether to play against his former IPL captain. "I and Dhoni talked in Australia how we will be in different teams, but it will be fun. Imagine Jadeja celebrating Dhoni’s dismissal (laughs).
"I and Dhoni played a few finals together. It will be a challenge to stop Dhoni playing the helicopter shot,” the left-hander said.
The swashbuckling southpaw said he was looking forward to the IPL players’ auction on February 6. “I am excited about the auction and will sit with team coach and owner to decide on the players,” said Raina.
While Raina is a seasoned IPL campaigner, Hodge is regarded one of the most experienced batsmen in Twenty20 cricket and is the second highest run-scorer in the format.
Hodge had previous stints with IPL teams Kochi Tuskers, Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals as a player.