Gujarat Lions boosted by Jadeja return; Steve Smith to play

Steve Smith is back in charge after missing a tie due to illness.

Gujarat Lions’ bowling coach Heath Streak confirmed that Ravindra Jadeja trained with the squad and is fit to play.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Spinners have dominated the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The tracks in summer favours slow bowlers, armed with skill and patience to test the stroke players. Gujarat Lions’ Ravindra Jadeja, supported by the experienced Shadab Jakati, have the necessary qualities to curb the ambitions of Rising Pune Supergiant batsmen when the two sides meet on Friday night.

South African Imran Tahir has already shown his intentions in the three appearances so far. Twenty20 is supposed to be loaded in favour of trigger-happy batsmen with powerful arms. However, Tahir claimed six wickets from 12 overs of leg-spin and will be eager to add more to his tally. His dash style of celebration of each wicket is distinctive and reflects the competitive nature, especially after being ignored in the players’ auction.

Adam Zampa was his partner in a double-spin act in the two home ties. The Aussie, match-winner last season for the same side, is slowly getting into the groove. The wicket of century-maker Sanju Samson in the previous game showed his capacity to withstand punishment. Although, RPS’ array of explosive batsmen have been below par, resulting in two consecutive defeats.

Jadeja’s return

Lions’ bowling coach, Heath Streak, confirmed on Thursday that the bearded India all-rounder trained with the squad and is fit to play.

“Jadeja’s availability gives us more selection options. He is a quality bowler and more than a handy batsman, as seen in the series against Australia.”

GL bowling lacked the bite till now. “We focussed on containment and building up pressure. Unlike other sides, we did not have pacers or spinners to be used in powerplays.”

Four overs each by Jadeja, Jakati, Tahir or Zampa can alter the course of this contest under lights between Gujarat Lions, playing the host to RPS at Khanderi’s SCA stadium. Two losses from two appearances does not reflect well on Suresh Raina’s leadership, nor does the result do justice to reputations of players like Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum or Aaron Finch, known to win games on their day.

Raina’s unbeaten 68 against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), supported by a quick-fire 45 (six fours, two sixes) from Dinesh Karthik, were glimpses of form fans expect from their heroes. GL will bank on Jadeja and the vastly-experienced Jakati to subdue RPS heavyweights Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane, M. S. Dhoni and Ben Stokes.

Smith is back in charge after missing a tie due to illness. Asked about the effect of Jadeja’s return, the Aussie said: “He is a quality player and we know what to expect.”

The RPS skipper felt it was too early to debate on team form — two straight defeats after starting off with an easy win over Mumbai Indians.

“Disappointed with the last match. Our team played only three matches, so not worried.”