This time it might look like a contest between David and Goliath, but Pune Warriors defeated two-time IPL champions Chennai Super Kings at Chepauk on April 15 this year! Overall, the Super Kings have won three out of five contested at the IPL against the Warriors - by 25 runs at Chepauk on April 25, 2011, by 8 wickets at Mumbai (DYP) on April 27, 2011 and by 13 runs at Chepauk on April 19, 2012. Pune have won two against Chennai - by seven wickets at Pune on April 14, 2012 and by 24 runs at Chepauk on April 15, 2013.
At the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium tonight, Pune will look up to pacer Ashok Dinda, who did well against Delhi Daredevils on Sunday. Dinda (3/31) produced his best IPL 2013 bowling performance against Delhi on April 28 at Raipur. This was his second-best performance, next only to the 4 for 18 against Mumbai Indians at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai on April 6, 2012. Dinda's tally of ten wickets at 31.60 runs apiece in nine matches is the highest by a Pune bowler this season. Rahul Sharma's 33 wickets at 22.81 in 33 matches is the highest for Pune in IPL.
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. They have been plagued by inconsistency in both the batting and bowling departments. Pune were gutted when Chris Gayle smashed that 66-ball 175 on April 23. Their 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.
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.