Mahendra Singh Dhoni finds himself in a position which he would love to forget quickly and look ahead when he leads his struggling Rising Pune Supergiants against an upbeat Sunrisers Hyderabad, which is placed second in the points table, at the Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Stadium here on Tuesday night.
Dhoni is leading a team (three wins from 10 games) which has never matched its branding – Supergiants.
Dhoni’s primary objective come match day will be redemption as he has rarely experienced such a poor run as captain in any format. Perhaps, a reminder that the captain is only as good as his team and ironically Supergiants, which started off on a rousing note drubbing Mumbai Indians in the opener, faltered badly later on to be in this forgettable position at the bottom half of the table.
The team has been plagued by injuries. Kevin Pietersen wobbled out and then the team lost Faf du Plessis and Mitchell Marsh. But the biggest blow of them all was the injury to the in-form Australian captain Steven Smith. This was a scenario difficult for any team to grapple with and forced Dhoni to look to the Australian, George Bailey, as a replacement.
However, it has not been a complete failure on the batting front with opener Ajinkya Rahane figuring third in the highest run-getters list with 417 from 10 games that includes six fifties (Virat Kohli leads with 541 followed by David Warner with 458). Even Saurabh Tiwary is chipping in with useful contributions, but the team fails to defend its totals.
The biggest concern for Dhoni is the bowling department. The fact that the bowlers could not defend 191 against Royal Challengers Bangalore in RPS' last game should be disheartening. Pacers Ashok Dinda and R. P. Singh, who played in the last game, need to strike early to give the team any chance. The other major worry has been the failure of Sri Lankan all-rounder Thisara Perera, who has been pretty expensive in crunch situations. It is a pity that such a world-class off-spinner like Ravichandran Ashwin bowled just one over against RCB! These are all clear signs that the Supergiants don't have a settled bowling attack even at this stage of the competition!
On the other hand, Sunrisers continues to be the team to watch out for. Warner has been leading from the front. To the team’s delight, Shikhar Dhawan has regained his form with the willow and with the likes of Kane Williamson and Yuvraj Singh having the ability to chip in with handy contributions, the team can always look for competitive totals.
But what has been the most effective and consistent aspect of SRH has been its bowling which not only has depth and variety, but great consistency even on batting tracks to make the batsmen uncertain. The trio of left-armers - Ashish Nehra, Barinder Sran and Mustafizur Rahman - with the admirable Bhuvneshwar Kumar always rising to the occasion in the power-play, have rarely disappointed their captain Warner.
So a confident Sunrisers looks good to clinch another win and move closer to booking a slot in the play-offs in this port city which has become the favourite destination for many cricketers in the IPL.