Chennai SuperKings v/s Pune Warriors
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai
Head-to-head IPL Record: Chennai 2-1 Pune
Not faffing around
In what has been the most startling result of the tournament so far, Ganguly’s Pune Warriors managed to beat Champions Chennai in the previous game between these teams.
After pulling off a miraculous win against neighbours and fellow sufferers from the South Bangalore, the SuperKings were clear favorites to turn around their weak start and walk all over the Warriors at the new Sahara stadium. But Dhoni and co. dealt with conditions alien to them, and weren’t sure of what really was a good total. Adding to their worries was the laughable form of opener Murali Vijay who continues to make CSK a 10-man team, and Jesse Ryder’s final burst that made good the law of averages. Running out two of his partners is collateral damage, as always, but this time- he made it count. Along with the impressive Steve Smith, Pune have now become the team that has maximum value-for-money overseas players- with each of them fighting for a place in the squad under leader Dada. Pune are a 10-man team too, with a non-playing captain, but his leadership is proving to be invaluable- and promoting Uthappa up the order could prove to be a vital move of aggressive intent in the longer run.
Chennai haven’t played a game in between, and after a long break of 6 days, will face their tormentors on home turf. Ganguly will take on an embattled Dhoni in a war of wits once again, with Dhoni quite down and out for the country not even midway through the season. The man needs a bit of rest, and somebody like Raina could easily take over the responsibility for a few games.
Losing 3 out of 5 games is not something that hasn’t occurred before (2010), but this time, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. By the time Hussey is here, it could all well be over for the defending Champions.
You’re getting dropped first.
Ironically, the best player in the side is Hussey-replacement, South African Faff Du Plessis- who looks to be the cleanest and most graceful striker of the ball (apart from Rahane) in the IPL. Dwayne Bravo has blown hot and cold, and must consider opening the innings- now that Vijay has outstayed his welcome. Dhoni cannot possibly stick to the same team again, and even Raina is struggling to convert his starts into meaningful innings. Albie Morkel is proving to be a bit inconsistent, and Ashwin is averaging 118 as a bowler this year- as compared to 20 over the previous years. Letting go of Champion spinner Murali is coming back to haunt them, and they consistently end up one bowler short while defending their modest totals. Playing Kulasekera and Yo Mahesh did not work for them, and Jadeja needs to be playing higher up the order, and given more of a chance to roll his arm over (he wasn’t given the ball against Pune) to be rendered more effective.
Dhoni seems to be sticking to his guns and treading the fine line between stubbornness and downright daftness.
Player to watch out for: Suresh Raina
The southpaw is due, and after a couple of ineffective cameos, he must learn to build an innings- because nobody else around him is willing to do so. Being the highest run-getter in the IPL could not mean much if he continues to throw caution to the wind after being well-set.
Need. Break. Please.
After a relatively good start to the season, Pune could just be this year’s fairytale story- with Dada surely playing in his last year of competitive cricket. Delhi and Mumbai could be outright favorites because of their sheer firepower, but Pune is effectively a team of rejects that are being marshaled expertly by a seasoned leader.
Dinda is beginning to repay the faith Ganguly is showing in him- and he always looks like he is either going to be whacked to the boundary or take a wicket. That is a good sign in T20 cricket. Playing Nehra, though, may not be the right call- and Parnell is cooling his heels on the bench because of Ryder’s good form. Mathews arrives as a welcome addition to the side, and one isn’t sure if Samuels will be allowed to bowl anymore- and if he doesn’t, he is not of much value to the team. The team balance is not quite there yet, but a few sparkling individual performances are pulling them through so far. They are still the worst beginners of an innings- with Ryder and Ganguly often making for entertaining viewing while prancing across the wickets- with neither looking for a second run at any given time. One wonders who puts up his hand first, because the other will always end up as a victim.
Player to watch out for: Angelo Mathews
Surely, he will be promoted up the order to lend some stability to a weak top 4- and the only solution is that Ganguly must demote himself to the slot of being the bowling all-rounder in the side…who doesn’t bowl. Nobody is complaining, though, as long as they’re winning. Mathews is one of the best all-rounders in the world- and he will look to play his part until Clarke returns to the scheme of things.
Tough to see Pune repeating their win- and pulling off a double. This could just be Chennai’s make-or-break game- because one more loss could relegate them to the bottom half of the table once and for all. Expect them to play with desperation, but that could not always be a good thing.
A narrow Chennai win is on the cards.