The Rising Pune Supergiant, determined to clear their dismal track record in the IPL, are slowly finding their way in the mix. A win against the defending champions in the last game would have done their confidence a world of good, especially the comeback of MS Dhoni, the finisher.
Here’s what the line-up might look like against the Mumbai Indians:
The franchise’s leading run scorer in IPL 2016 hasn’t been in the best of form this year. Playing under a new captain, Rahane started off with a bang, scoring 60 in the first game against Mumbai. It has been mostly a downslide since then, with the 28-year old managing just 61 runs from the next five games.
Against Sunrisers, in the face of a tricky chase, he could contribute just two runs.
The Ranchi-born all-rounder is making waves just like the diminutive Swapnil Asnodkar did for Rajasthan in the first edition of the IPL. He has been right on the money in the initial overs, finding the gaps with ease without being too adventurous. He already has four thirty-plus scores from the five games he has played.
The new captain is on a mission to save the ignominy of last year’s disaster. As a batsman, he has blown hot and cold, and was undone by a Rashid Khan googly in the last match, the disgust in his reaction saying it all.
After his unbeaten 84 in the first match, Smith hasn’t managed to convert his starts into big scores. That will be his primary motive when he walks out to bat against MI.
The former India captain finally got his mojo back, tearing the Sunrisers attack open with a breathtaking innings to take his side home. A promotion up the order was in the offing, and Dhoni grabbed the opportunity with both hands against last year’s title winners.
He scored 61 off just 34 balls with five fours and three sixes, finishing off the game for his side just like he used to in his heydeys. He is expected to feature in the same role against Mumbai as well.
The most expensive player in this IPL hasn’t lived up to his billing in this IPL, performing below par from his lofty expectations. While he took three wickets against RCB, he has generally looked off-colour, especially with the bat.
Except for one fifty, he has fared poorly with the bat, and will need to unleash more of his explosive strokes in the final overs.
Tiwary’s role in the Pune team is that of a finisher, and he managed to do it to some extent in the first few matches. A personal setback forced him to miss a match, but the determined Tiwary is back to form the lower middle order who can pace his game according to the situation of the game.
The Australian has a vast experience of playing T20 cricket, and can bring his knowledge to use on Indian pitches as well. His hard hitting adds an extra dimension to his game, and lends balance to the side. Add to this his smart medium-pace, and Steve Smith has an option of adding an extra batsman in the team.
While Washington Sunder was preferred in the last match and performed decently with the ball, Rahul Chahar might be tried out by Pune because of the majority of right-handed batsmen in the team. He played against the Kings XI Punjab, and could be inducted in the team to target Rohit Sharma and his famed struggles against leg spin.
One of the bright young talents on the domestic circuit, Thakur was close to an India cap last year, but continues to be an uncapped player. He struggled in the last game against the Sunrisers, spraying the ball around and being unable to manage his lines against the likes of Dhawan and Henriques. He might still get another game, especially because of his ability to gather pace even on drab pitches.
Not a speedster like Thakur, Unadkat relies more on his subtle seam movement to extract victims. He was included for the game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, and picked up two wickets. Against the Sunrisers, he was a tad expensive, going for an economy of over 10. He can give the initial breakthrough with his gentle pace, when the openers are looking to go after the bowling, and is the reason why he is expected to retain his place.
Snubbed in the auctions, Tahir made a dramatic re-entry as replacement, and has looked impressive in the middle overs. In the last game, while the rest of the bowlers went for runs aplenty, Tahir maintained an economy of under 8, and picked up the wicket of Shikhar Dhawan. Trust the leggie to trouble Rohit Sharma and the rest of the MI line-up.