IPL 9: MS Dhoni's Supergiants will rely on spin to win against Lions
Pune: Fresh from a desperately needed win over Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rising Pune Supergiants will take on an in-form Gujarat Lions at home today evening.
The victory in Hyderabad might have taken some pressure off the Supergiants, but it’s crucial that they gain some momentum by winning a few games in a row, to stay close to the top-four. They have two games at home now in the next three days, and it’s a good opportunity for MS Dhoni’s men to get some precious points in conditions that suit them.
The pitch at the MCA stadium here in Gahunje has been on the slower side, and it has been tough to hit the slow bowlers, unless they bowled absolutely full. Supergiants have got the likes of R Ashwin, M Ashwin and Ankit Sharma in the spin department, along with a very smart operator like Rajat Bhatia. Ashok Dinda was superb on his debut for Supergiants in Hyderabad, and that has given Dhoni more options with the ball.
Their opponents — Gujarat Lions — are well equipped in the spin department too, with the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Pravin Tambe in their ranks. It might well come down to which team’s batsmen handle the spinners better in this evening game.
Supergiants would need the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Steve Smith, Dhoni to come to the party, as each of them is an accomplished batter against spin in his own right.
Faf du Plessis ruled out
They will badly miss the ability and experience of Faf du Plessis at the top though. Du Plessis, who injured a finger against Sunrisers, has flown back to South Africa, and Supergiants management has confirmed that his season is over. Supergiants have no other specialist opener in the squad, and it would be interesting to see who opens the batting for hosts today.
Lions have been a team to beat so far this season, with their batting unit firing as a group. Their top-three — Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith and Suresh Raina — can dismantle any bowling attack, which was quite evident during their game against Delhi Daredevils on Wednesday. Lions were comfortable winners when these two sides met in Rajkot few days back, and Supergiants would be hoping for a reversal today.
Usman Khawaja is soon expected to join the Rising Pune Supergiants’ squad as a replacement for Kevin Pietersen. “We have got the approval for Khawaja. He has already applied for a visa, and we are hoping he will be here soon,” coach Stephen Fleming confirmed.