Rajkot: There are big expectations of Gujarat Lions as they take on Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) in their own den here today, particularly after they marked their entry into the IPL with a convincing win over Kings XI Punjab on Monday.
Suresh Raina, who led by example and ensured that almost all his moves worked according to plan, will surely like to continue the winning streak. The crowds, expected to come to the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in droves, will surely cheer for the Lions.
Gujarat Lions' Aaron Finch during his 47-ball-74 against KXIP at Mohali on Monday. GL bank on the Australian batsman for a flying start. Pic/AFP
Pune no pushovers
On the other hand, the RPS, who also began their campaign on a positive note, defeating Mumbai Indians by nine wickets, are upbeat too. The Lions may appear a bit stronger on paper, but the Supergiants are no pushovers. Far from it.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is an old hand at captaincy, not just in the IPL, and has always had many tricks up his sleeve. His very presence can lift any team’s morale and the Supergiants are just experiencing that. Both teams are packed with many talented players to make the contest worth looking forward to. If Raina has the likes of Brendon MuCullum, Aaron Finch, James Faulkner, Dwayne Bravo, Dale Steyn, Ravindra Jadeja and Dinesh Karthik to draw from, Dhoni can always depend on Steven Smith, Faf du Plessis, Kevin Pietersen, Ajinkya Rahane, Mitchell Marsh, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ishant Sharma.
Bowlers may struggle
With the wicket appearing flat and full of runs, the batsmen are bound to make merry and the bowlers may struggle to contain them. More than the hot pace, it is the cleverly concealed slower balls and the art of using them judiciously that often bear fruit on such a track. And Gujarat Lions have a potent weapon in Bravo, who reaped a rich harvest (4-22) against Kings XI Punjab.
It has been increasingly proved that despite being hit hard more often than not, shrewd spinners tend to hold sway in cricket’s shortest version. So do not be surprised if Jadeja and Ashwin, who played together for the now-suspended Chennai Super Kings, but are now pitted against each other, just like Raina and Dhoni, make some batsmen hop and dance even on the docile Rajkot pitch.
While the Lions were involved in vigorous net practice yesterday, the Supergiants did not step out of their hotel. In fact, they have not practised at all here.
The Lions are likely to play Steyn in place of Faulkner.
As for the RPS, medium-pacer RP Singh may have to make room for all-rounder Irfan Pathan.