IPL 2016: All eyes on Kohli-Dhoni battle as RCB and RPS look to bounce back
Facing a similar crisis after two successive defeats in IPL 2016, both Rising Pune Supergiants and Royal Challengers Bangalore would look to bring their campaign back on track when they face each other
Pune: Facing a similar crisis after two successive defeats, both Rising Pune Supergiants and Royal Challengers Bangalore would look to bring their campaign back on track when they face each other in an Indian Premier League match in Pune on Friday.
After impressive starts, both Pune and RCB have faltered in their last two games and come Friday, the two sides would be looking to outwit each other in a bid to return to winning ways.
With one win and two defeats, both the teams have identical two points each but the Pune outfit is a place above RCB in the standings at fifth position by virtue of a better net run rate.
Debutants Pune, led by the talismanic Mahendra Singh Dhoni, defeated defending champions Mumbai Indians in their tournament opener before losing to another new outfit Gujarat Lions and Kings XI Punjab.
Star-studded RCB, on the other hand, beat Sunrisers Hyderabad in their opening match before their campaign went haywire following losses to Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians last night.
For Pune captain Dhoni, the biggest task would be get his team composition right.
Dhoni is a leader who persists with a set of players but he is yet to strike that balance in Pune.
Dhoni has to ponder over both the batting and bowling departments of his team.
Pune's batting unit consists of some big names in Ajinkya Rahane, Kevin Pietersen, Steven Smith and Dhoni, but barring Faf du Plessis no other batsman has managed to set the stage on fire so far in the tournament.
Dhoni tried Sri Lankan Thissara Perera in the last match in place of Mitchell Marsh but with no result.
But more than the batting, it is the indifferent performance of his bowlers which would be worrying Dhoni.
Pace spearhead Ishant Sharma has been lacking consistency while Dhoni's one-time trusted lieutenant RP Singh made way for Irfan Pathan in the previous game without much result.
On the pace front, Dhoni hardly has any options left in his hands as Indian fast bowler Ishwar Pandey has also not been an IPL regular although he can generate a bit of bounce and swing.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has not been at his best in the shortest format in the last few months but his statemate Murugan Ashwin has done decently in his debut season.
The bowler who has been a stand-out for Pune is Ranji veteran Rajat Bhatia, who has kept batsmen in check with his gentle medium pace and occasional cutters.
Just like Pune, RCB's strength lies in batting unit. With the likes of explosive Chris Gayle, captain Virat Kohli, A B de Villiers, Shane Watson and fearless Mumbai-based youngster Sarfaraz Khan in their ranks, the Bangalore outfit can tear apart any bowling unit on their given day.
However, RCB is expected to miss Gayle for the second match on the trot as the Jamaican has flown back home following the birth of his first child.
But RCB's troubles lie mainly in their bowling attack in which Watson has been the lone stand-out performer.
Despite posting a competitive 170 for seven against Mumbai Indians yesterday, RCB bowlers' failed to defend the score as the title holders cruised home with two overs to spare.
Varun Aaron and Kane Richardson, who came in for Adam Milne and David Wiese yesterday, went for runs and the young Harshal Patel too has not been getting the breakthroughs for RCB.
The RCB spin attack comprising Yuzvendra Chahal, Parvez Rasool and Iqbal Abdullah also lacks experience.
Rising Pune Supergiants: MS Dhoni (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Kevin Pietersen, Faf du Plessis, Steve Smith, Mitchell Marsh, Jaskaran Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ankit Sharma, Albie Morkel, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Thisara Perera, Saurabh Tiwary, RP Singh, Rajat Bhatia, Ankush Bains, Baba Aparajith, Murugan Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Deepak Chahar, Scott Boland, Peter Handscomb, Adam Zampa.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (C), Shane Watson, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Stuart Binny, Iqbal Abdulla, Sreenath Aravind, Kedar Jadhav, Vikramjeet Malik, Kane Richardson, Varun Aaron, Mandeep Singh, Abu Nechim, Adam Milne, Yuzvendra Chahal, Harshal Patel, Travis Head, David Wiese, Sachin Baby, Lokesh Rahul, Parvez Rasool, Vikas Tokas, Sarfaraz Khan, Praveen Dubey, Akshay Karnewar.
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While RCB will look to start afresh, CSK got a confidence-boosting 20-run win against defending champions Mumbai Indians on Sunday night.
The 37-year-old former South Africa skipper is in the UAE to represent his Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the remainder of the 14th edition of the lucrative league.