After winning their first match of the season, Rising Pune Supergiant lost their next two matches and are taking on bottom-placed Gujarat Lions at the SCA stadium later today. They will look to get their campaign back on track by beating Gujarat, but they have some issues to address ahead of the clash.
Their bowling unit, barring Imran Tahir, looks fragile and the form of their opener Mayank Agarwal should worry the team management as well. In all likelihood, at least three changes will be made to the squad that faced Delhi Daredevils a fortnight ago.
One good news for the RPS franchise is that skipper Steve Smith is set to return to the playing XI after missing the previous match.
Let us take a look at RPS’ probable playing XI to face Gujarat Lions.
After failing to get going in the last two matches, Ajinkya Rahane will look to get some runs under his belt. He won’t have any added responsibility as Steve Smith, who is expected to return for this match, will take the captaincy from the Mumbaikar.
After warming the bench for nearly five years, Baba Aparajith might make his most anticipated IPL debut. The Tamil Nadu youngster is an experienced player in the Indian domestic circuit and if given a chance, he could prove his worth for the Supergiant.
He is capable of keeping the scorecard ticking and when needed, he has the ability to shift gears with ease, something that should be evident from the way he played in the TNPL. With Mayank Agarwal failing to score runs, it won’t be a bad idea to replace him with Aparajith.
After missing the last game due to illness, RPS’ captain Steve Smith is set to make it to the playing XI for the game against Gujarat Lions. Smith had a great start to the tournament as he played a match-winning knock in his team’s season opener against Mumbai Indians but missed out in the second game against Kings XI Punjab.
The team management will hope that the Aussie fires so that they can register their second win of the tournament.
The form of MS Dhoni should be a big concern for the Rising Pune Supergiant team management. The former Indian skipper has failed to set the stage on fire in the first three matches and is facing a lot of criticisms from all quarters. The fans and the team management will hope for Dhoni to strike form at the earliest.
After starting the tournament on a positive note, Manoj Tiwary was forced to miss Pune’s previous game against Delhi Daredevils due to the death of his father. It is likely that the right-hander will make it to the RPS playing XI.
The costliest player in the history of IPL, Ben Stokes, has been good with the bat and below-par with the ball in the first few matches of the tournament. With the Englishman going for runs, RPS’s death bowling looks fragile. Stokes will look to contribute with both bat and ball and prove his worth.
Rajat Bhatia has been one of the best utility players in the IPL since its inception. The Delhi cricketer is not used properly by his captains at RPS as he his someone who is capable of bowling four tight overs. However, he has not been allowed to finish his quota in this year’s tournament.
He will keep the run-rate under control in the middle overs and the captain should use him well in that period to keep the opposition at bay.
Imran Tahir has been a revalation since the start of the tournament. The Proteas leg-spinner has a point to prove as he went unsold in the 2017 IPL auction and came in as a replacement for Mitchell Marsh. He is just a wicket away from reclaiming the purple cap from Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Without a doubt, Tahir has been RPS’ best bowler this season. But he needs a spinner to back him and the Pune team management has tried out Adam Zampa and Rahul Chahar, but both the leg spinners weren’t effective. This could prompt Smith to pick off-spinner Washington Sundar in the playing XI.
The 17-year-old all-rounder from Tamil Nadu is in a rich vein of form with the ball and will look to showcase his skills if he gets a chance.
With Ashok Dinda going for runs, it won’t be a surprise if he is left out of the team for Jaydev Unadkat. Playing Unadkat could prove vital as he is someone who has played most of his cricket at the SCA stadium in Rajkot.
The RPS’s Indian fast bowling department looked least effective and it is quite evident that the team needs someone who can lead the attack. Playing Matt Henry could change the fortunes for RPS. Henry has been good for New Zealand in the last 18 months and did well when the Kiwis toured India last year.