Pune Warriors India have had little to cheer about in a campaign that has seen them win just two of their nine matches so far in the Indian Premier League 2013. But Chennai Super Kings are one of the two teams Pune have beaten along the way - in Chennai a fortnight ago - and both teams would remember that detail when they clash at Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium in Pune on Tuesday (April 30).
Pune have been plagued by inconsistency in both the batting and bowling departments. If the bowlers were smashed for 263 by Royal Challengers Bangalore, led by Chris Gayle's unbeaten 175, on April 23, the batsmen let the team down against Delhi Daredevils in Raipur on Sunday, a game Pune should have won after dominating for a majority of the 165-run chase.
It's hard to fathom why players perfectly suited for Twenty20 cricket have struggled so much.
Robin Uthappa and Aaron Finch have shown traces of belligerence at the top but it's the batsmen lower in the order who have crumbled as a unit in crunch situations. Having said that, Steven Smith has been under-utilised and could perhaps be given more responsibility and Luke Wright has added a new dimension with his all-round abilities.
But Kane Richardson, who was bought for USD 700,000 at the last auction, failed to make an impact in his only game against Delhi while Mitchell Marsh hasn't inspired too much confidence despite a number of opportunities. Perhaps the team management would be better served by bringing back either Ross Taylor or Angelo Mathews in order to maximise the utility of their foreign reserves.
But the man who needs to ignite the spark is Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj, who has been playing with a dodgy back, is yet to come into his own and with just 135 runs from six innings, the time is ripe for a knock of substance.
The biggest positive for Pune has been the bowling of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rahul Sharma, who has used his height to generate extra bounce while his accuracy has made run scoring difficult.
But that would be a challenging task against Chennai, currently in the middle of a bull run that has seen them register five consecutive wins to reach the top of the points table. Michael Hussey has led that dominance, making a mockery of attacks in his typical workmanlike fashion, while Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni haven't let the team down at all lower down the batting order.
The only real concern in the batting department has been Murali Vijay's lack of form, but even that was partially solved when Wriddhiman Saha, playing his first game in IPL VI, made 39 in a 103-run opening stand with Hussey against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Dhoni has placed immense faith in Chris Morris, the South African pacer, who has stepped up in the absence of Albie Morkel. Mohit Sharma, the uncapped Uttar Pradesh seamer, has exceeded expectations by bowling his full quota of overs in most games. And Dwayne Bravo's handy contribution in the middle overs alongside the spin twins - R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja - has meant that most bases are covered for Chennai.
Dirk Nannes, who struggled in the previous game after coming back from a hamstring injury, has been the only weak link in the bowling attack.
Often in clashes where teams are placed at two opposite ends of the spectrum, like in this case, the better-placed team has more to lose and that is something Chennai would be wary of. Pune, meanwhile, have no option but to go for broke.
Pune Warriors India: Aaron Finch (capt), Yuvraj Singh, Steve Smith, Kane Richardson, Luke Wright, Mitchell Marsh, Abhishek Nayar, Ali Murtaza, Anustup Majumdar, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dheeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Harpreet Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Krishnakant Upadhyay, Mahesh Rawat, Manish Pandey, Mithun Manhas, Parveez Rasool, Rahul Sharma, Raiphi Gomez, Robin Uthappa (wk), Shrikant Wagh, T Suman, Udit Birla.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), Murali Vijay, Michael Hussey, Suresh Raina, Subramaniam Badrinath, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jason Holder, Chris Morris, Mohit Sharma, Albie Morkel, Dirk Nannes, Ankit Rajpoot, Shadab Jakati, Anirudha Srikkanth, Baba Aparajith, Imtiaz Ahmed, R Karthikeyan, Ronit More, Vijay Shankar, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ben Hilfenhaus, Ben Laughlin.
Story first published on: Tuesday, 30 April 2013 09:22 IST