Reeling from back-to-back defeats, defending champions Chennai Super Kings would aim to get back to winning ways when they take on unpredictable tournament debutants Pune Warriors in an Indian Premier League match here today.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Chennai are second from bottom in the points table after three losses in five matches, all the defeats coming away from home, and would be seeking to regain their form in front of adoring home fans.
Chennai have another eight matches to go apart from today’s tie against Pune.
Last year too, they were facing elimination close to the end of league fixtures but their fortunes turned for the better as they went on to win the title.
Apart from their two wins against Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chennai have lost to Kochi Tuskers, Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab.
But despite the losses, coach Stephen Fleming has ruled out tinkering with the combination much.
Chennai’s batting has revolved around Dhoni, Mike Hussey, Suresh Raina and Srikkanth Aniruddha and the quartet has delivered on most occasions.
The team’s worries are mostly focused on the bowling department.
Sri Lankan off-spinner Suraj Randiv is yet to find his rhythm and though he has claimed five wickets from four matches, he has also given away 120 runs in 15 overs so far.
R Ashwin, who was impressive in the earlier editions, is also lacking in thrust and has claimed only four wickets conceding 143 runs of his quota of overs from five innings.
As for the Pune Warriors, captain Yuvraj Singh has work harder for points as they too have lost two of their last matches.
They rely heavily on Yuvraj and the aggressive Jesse Ryder to build the innings and this over-reliance on the duo probably cost them in the last two matches.
On the positive side, Robin Uthappa struck form in the loss to Mumbai Indians and would be aiming to continue from where he left off when he faces Chennai’s bowlers.
Bowling is Pune’s weak link as the team does not feature a single established star which can intimidate the opposition by his sheer presence.
The likes of Wayne Parnell have been economical but have not captured many wickets.
The reigning champions have been struggling with their bowling line-up. Starting from the mauling that they received at the hands of Punjab’s Paul Valthaty, to the loss against Mumbai Indians, MS Dhoni & Co have not been able to stem the flow of runs. The side’s number one spinner, R Ashwin has looked a pale shadow of himself, struggling to lead the side in the absence of Muralitharan, who was bought by the Kochi franchisee. Suraj Randiv too has failed to get going. Changes in the batting order too has not helped the side. To accommodate Australian Michael Hussey, Srikkath Anirudha has been forced to bat down deep, a role he isn’t relishing. Pune Warriors on the other hand have a settled look to their playing eleven. Jesse Ryder, Robin Uthappa and skipper Yuvraj Singh are amongst runs. Pune are coming into this game on a two-match losing streak.
Pune opener Jesse Ryder is as classy as it can get but he has had his problems with the rising delivery. Once again it as was evident in his dismissal in the game against the Mumbai Indians, where medium-pacer Abu Nechim hurried him to play a short-arm pull, only to be caught. Doug Bollinger and Albie Morkel would be waiting to use the same ploy against the burly batsman. Dhoni has often said in the past that Yuvraj Singh was his most important player in India colours. When the sides meet, it would be interesting to see, how the India skipper plans and plots, the dismissal of his star player.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, S Badrinath, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shadab Jakati, Michael Hussey, Albie Morkel, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, G Bailey, Tim Southee, F du Plessis, Suraj Randiv, Nuwan Kulasekara, Joginder Sharma, Yo Mahesh, A Mukund, Wriddhiman Saha, Scott Styris, Sudeep Tyagi, K Vasudevadas, G Vignesh.