Pitch, pace, playing XI: What went wrong for Dhoni's Pune Supergiants

The Rajkot crowd traded the blue flags that are usually seen on Ambedkar Jayanti for the orange of the Gujarat Lions on Thursday, as the their team coasted to their second consecutive victory, and claimed the bragging rights in the first clash of the newbies in this year’s IPL. Here are the top talking points from the game:

The two faces

I know from experience how deceptive a Rajkot pitch can be. The surface is typically covered by an even layer of green grass, which attracts a fast bowlers better than food attracts Joey Tribianni. It is a trick that fools many though, for the wicket is usually a batter’s paradise.

Rising Pune Supergiants captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. AFP

Rising Pune Supergiants captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. AFP

Thursday’s wicket however, seemed to have two distinct sides. One end was covered by the sly grass hiding a featherbed, while the other was quite dry, with large cracks clearly visible. It was from this end that the odd ball turned more than expected, and this end that Ravindra Jadeja bowled two overs in the death, conceding a miraculous three runs.

The Pune Supergiants’ innings looked like it had two very different faces as well. Faf du Plessis and Kevin Pietersen showed with an 86 run stand easy it was to score when the ball was hard and new, even taking 16 off Dwayne Bravo’s first over. But Suresh Raina rotated his bowlers shrewdly, and used spin predominantly in the last ten overs, which made things difficult for the new batsmen who came in. Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh could not give the innings the final burst of runs, and Pune went from 93 in 11 overs to just 143 in 19 overs, before Dhoni’s 20 runs off the last over lent their score some semblance of stability.

Pace bowlers let Pune down

Such is the game of cricket. After starring in their last encounter on a lively pitch, the pace department let the team down in Rajkot, mostly by bowling the wrong lengths. Dhoni mentioned in his post match comments about how the game was lost in the powerplay (62 runs, no wickets), four overs of which were bowled by RP Singh and Ishant Sharma. That forced Dhoni to bring in both his spinners while the field restrictions were still on. While the experienced R Ashwin gave away only four runs, M Ashwin - with a cumulative experience of one IPL game - conceded 20. He pulled things back later in his spell though, but the seam bowlers continued to leak runs.

Here are the economy rates of the Pune Rising Supergiants:

Ishant Sharma 9.75
R.P. Singh 10.5
Rajat Bhatia 10
Mitchell Marsh 10

Compare that to the pace bowlers in the opposition, and you get an idea of where Pune lost the game:

Praveen Kumar 6
Dwayne Bravo 10.75
James Faulkner 7.5

Team composition

The table above also points to another factor: the Lions played three spinners, while the Supergiants played only two. Those two, went at an economy rate of 7.12, despite M. Ashwin’s horrendous first over. On a pitch that had something in it for the spinners, at least at one end, perhaps Dhoni would have been ruing leaving out Adam Zampa.

“We did well in the first game, but this particular game I think we could have played with a few other players,” said captain Dhoni after the game. With leg spinners doing well in this tournament, it might not be no surprise if we see Zampa feature in the upcoming games as the third spinner, especially on tracks that offer turn.

If Zampa does come in though, it would mean Dhoni will have to leave an overseas player, most likely Mitchell Marsh. Such a move could make the batting order uncomfortably short, but with a top five of the quality that Pune have, it might be worth a shot in the search for the right combination.

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Updated Date: Apr 15, 2016 15:23:34 IST

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