Gujarat Lions (GL), led by Suresh Raina, had a brilliant first season in the Indian Premier League (IPL) last year when they won nine out of their 14 matches and topped the points table, going into the play-offs. Unfortunately, they lost the first qualifier against Royal Challengers Bangalore and then went out of the tournament by losing the next one too against the eventual winners Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The Lions this year bought as many as 11 players in the auction with the intention of strengthening their bowling line up. They picked up a couple of good seamers from the auctions like Manpreet Gony, Nathu Singh and the veteran Munaf Patel but their only big buy was the England opener, Jason Roy. The batting boasts the likes of Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith and the skipper himself, who would be eyeing to make a mark after being overlooked on a contract with the BCCI.
James Faulkner, Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja will fill in the all-rounders' slot with Dinesh Karthik behind the stumps. Although Bravo and Jadeja are likely to miss the first couple of weeks of the season owing to injuries, Lions still look a formidable line-up on paper.
The Rajkot-based team will play their first match of the tournament against Kolkata Knight Riders on April 7 on their home turf at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
With players of such calibre, Lions might just be the team to beat in the season and it won't be much of a surprise if they go the distance this time around.
Complete squad: Suresh Raina (capt), Akshdeep Nath, Shubham Agarwal, Basil Thampi, Dwayne Bravo, Chirag Suri, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Manpreet Gony, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Shivil Kaushik, Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Brendon McCullum, Munaf Patel, Pratham Singh, Jason Roy, Pradeep Sangwan, Jaydev Shah, Shelley Shaurya, Nathu Singh, Dwayne Smith, Tejas Baroka, Andrew Tye