In its two years of existence, Lucknow Super Giants have already made a mark in the Indian Premier League (IPL). One of the two new outfits with Gujarat Titans, the KL Rahul-led side made the playoffs both seasons, showing far better consistency than teams that have planned and strategised for years and still not made it count.

Lucknow Super Giants captain KL Rahul during a practice session.(PTI)

Despite losing in the Eliminator the last two seasons, the LSG think thank believes that that they can not just reach the playoffs, but push further in the knockouts. The performances reflect in a settled squad as well with 19 players retained.

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The Super Giants have a set top order with Rahul, Quinton de Kock, Kyle Mayers and Deepak Hooda. Explosive left-handed bat Mayers was the team’s second highest run-getter in IPL 2023 with four half-centuries and a strike rate of over 144. West Indies batter Mayers made such an impact at the top that LSG decided to stick with him even when de Kock arrived after missing the initial games due to international duty.

While Rahul provides the team a sheet anchor who consolidates at the start and can accelerate at will later, the team have brought in promising southpaw, Devdutt Padikkal, traded from Rajasthan Royals with fast bowler Avesh Khan let go.

The left-handed batter has played 57 IPL matches, scoring 1,521 runs. He joined RR in 2022, playing 28 matches and scoring 637 runs. With so many options at the top of the order, LSG’s new head coach Justin Langer will have a good problem to deal with.

The injury that sidelined Rahul for most of the 2023 season gave all-rounder Krunal Pandya a platform to lead the side and perform. Pandya was as effective with the bat as with the ball, also making crucial decisions on the field to guide them to the knockouts.

Lucknow’s biggest strength in the middle order is Marcus Stoinis. The Aussie all-rounder had a brilliant 2023 season, ending as the team’s highest scorer with 408 runs that included three half-centuries at a strike rate of 150.

In addition to West Indies star Nicholas Pooran, who played a few crucial knocks earlier this year, the team also possesses budding local talent in Ayush Badoni and Prerak Mankad, who make the team look a well-balanced batting unit.

The bowling attack that will be bolstered by the availability of Mohsin Khan, who was injured for a major part of IPL 2023, and young speedster Mayank Yadav.

Having traded Avesh for Padikkal, they will likely spend the most for a third pacer to help Mark Wood, Naveen-ul Haq and Yash Thakur. With an Australian head coach, Mitchel Starc and Josh Hazlewood could also be on the radar.

While Ravi Bishnoi was LSG’s highest wicket-taker with 16 scalps last season, the team could look for a seasoned spinner. It remains to be seen how former Australia coach Langer and Sridharan Sriram, who was spin consultant during his tenure and has joined LSG as assistant coach, assess that department. Though LSG have Pandya and Amit Mishra, another finger spinner could provide that zing to their bowling unit.

“LSG has built a strong foundation in the past two years and achieved good success. We want to take it to the next level by improving our squad constantly and that is what we will try to achieve in the auction,” Langer, who took over from Andy Flower, said when the franchise decided to retain most of the players.

With a balanced line-up, LSG will be looking at strategic buys in the auction in Dubai on Tuesday. They have six slots, including two overseas, to fill for the next season.

But with 86.85 crore already spent – the most among all IPL teams – out of a total purse of 100 crore, LSG are left with only 13.15 crore – the smallest purse among the 10 teams – to fill those six slots after releasing Daniel Sams, Jaydev Unadkat, Karun Nair and Manan Vohra, among others, ahead of the auction.