MS Dhoni is known for being a step ahead of the game, and yet in this IPL, he has been searching for answers. His team Rising Pune Supergiants have won only three out of 10 matches and a loss against Sunrisers Hyderabad, currently second on the points table, could leave them in the cold, ESPNcricinfo reports.
Supergiants have four games left, and they can get to 14 points if they win them all. IPL history is replete with teams sneaking into the playoffs on 14 points. And even that may not be enough this year, given the huge differences in net run-rates. So a win on Tuesday is non-negotiable for Supergiants; they might not even be able to afford a rained-out fixture, which could well happen as the monsoon advances.
Sunrisers, in their three years so far, have had to rely on late dashes to make the playoffs. This time, they have benefitted from their India internationals – Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra and Shikhar Dhawan – complementing the overseas professionals to deliver plenty of match-winning performances. The return of Yuvraj Singh, whose 23-ball 39 lent the finishing touches to the Sunrisers’ innings against Mumbai Indians on Sunday, also augers well for the side.
David Warner’s brazenness upfront has given Dhawan an opportunity to reconstruct his game, and his tactful use of Mustafizur Rahman, the team’s trump card, has elicited comparisons with how Lasith Malinga and Sunil Narine have been used at Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively.
Based on form, Sunrisers seem miles ahead, but Supergiants are at that stage where playing an uninhibited game seems their only option. Such teams generally tend to be dangerous.
Rising Pune Supergiants LWLLW (last five matches, most recent first)
Sunrisers Hyderabad WWWLW
In the spotlight
Originally considered a misfit in the shortest format, Usman Khawaja silenced the critics by becoming the second-highest run-getter in the 2015-16 Big Bash League despite playing just four matches. He was also Australia’s highest run-scorer at the World T20. Khawaja has had a couple of starts in the IPL, but hasn’t been able to build on them. Still his timing has been impeccable.
Shikhar Dhawan has scored 294 runs in his last six innings, just 59 short of his entire tally in the 2015 season. That combined with his strike rate of 116.54 indicates the change in his role from a basher to an accumulator. That it has been a successful switch is clear from the fact that five of his last six knocks have resulted in wins.
A slew of injuries to their first-choice foreign players have left Supergiants with very little choices. The captain MS Dhoni is nursing a sore back and a tight hamstring but is likely to play. However, it is unclear if legspinner M Ashwin has recovered from the side strain that forced him out of their previous game on Saturday.
So Adam Zampa, who had dismissed KL Rahul and AB de Villiers in the same over on IPL debut, may be given a longer run. There is a case for adding freshness to the seam attack by giving Irfan Pathan and Ishwar Pandey a game in place of Rajat Bhatia and RP Singh. The two bowlers finished with combined figures of 8-0-82-1 against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Rising Pune Supergiants: 1 Ajinkya Rahane 2 Usman Khawaja 3 Saurabh Tiwary 4 MS Dhoni (capt, wk) 5 Thisara Perera 6 George Bailey 7 Rajat Bhatia/Irfan Pathan 8 R Ashwin 9 Adam Zampa 10 Ashok Dinda 11 RP Singh/Ishwar Pandey
Expect Sunrisers to field an unchanged XI, barring last-minute injuries at training on match day.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner (capt) 2 Shikhar Dhawan 3 Kane Williamson 4 Yuvraj Singh 5 Moises Henriques 6 Deepak Hooda 7 Naman Ojha (wk) 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar 9 Barinder Sran 10 Ashish Nehra 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Pitch and conditions
A fresh surface that encouraged pace and bounce was rolled out for Visakhapatnam’s tournament opener on Sunday. A 4pm start negated the effects of dew. However, with this being a night game and the high levels of humidity in coastal cities, the toss could be crucial.
Stats and trivia
- Sunrisers economy rate of 6.44 is the best among all teams in the Powerplays. An economy of 8.66 in the last five overs is marginally better than second-placed Kings XI Punjab, who concede an average of 9.12.
- Warner and Dhawan have put together three fifty-plus stands – 137*, 90 and 85 – in winning causes this season
“A lot of people have asked me (about the India bowling coach job) but I haven’t thought about it. I’m still playing, and haven’t thought about what I will do after retirement. But let’s see. You never know, maybe one day.”
Ashish Nehra on his immediate future post-IPL
“I guess we are still quite clinging on to the fact that if we could put four games together and get across the line in a couple, then we are an outside chance to get through to the semi-finals. I have been in this situation before and got through, and I still believe we can have a go”
Rising Pune Supergiants coach Stephen Fleming has not given up hope on making the playoffs.