Team Pune will be aiming to nip their batting worries in the bud when they take on defending champions Chennai at the Subrata Roy Sahara stadium on Saturday. After a spectacular start to the season with two thumping wins, the hosts were brought down to earth by a seven-wicket defeat to Punjab at Mohali on Thursday.
On a bowler-friendly pitch, Pune’s top order stood exposed after being asked to bat, reopening their scars of the previous debut season when they failed to put up big totals on the board. Even in the earlier matches, their top order had failed to fire. Against the mighty Mumbai in the opening game, the team could only muster 129 and against Punjab at home, on a slow track, they fared slightly better with 144.
On both occasions, it was their effective bowling and ability to defend scores that bailed them out.
Manish Pandey will be furious after being relieved of his favourite opener’s slot just after being given one chance. True, he lasted only five balls for a naught against Mumbai, but it could have happened to any batsman against Lasith Malinga.
Since then, the Bangalore youngster has been asked to bat at No.7 and 8 in the two consecutive matches against Punjab.
Pune skipper Ganguly, who has occupied the opener’s slot by virtue of his reputation, has fared only slightly better; as has his partner at the other end, Jesse Ryder.
Surely, a successful former India opener doesn’t have to prove anything in the IPL. Certainly not in the tournament’s fifth season. The India aspirants like Pandey and Mohnish Mishra, or perhaps even the local lad Harshad Khadiwale, could be given a decent run.
The hosts will need to find some quick fix, because against Chennai, no target seems to be safe.
Unlike Pune, batting is Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team’s strength and it would be a litmus test for the likes of Pune paceman Ashok Dinda and leggie Rahul Sharma.
A particular drawback is that, given that theirs is a newly-built stadium, Pune would be as familiar with the behaviour of the pitch as the visiting team.
“The wicket is a little bit slow but we will get to know the true behaviour of the pitch only after it settles down, maybe after five or six matches,” said Dinda.
Chennai, who celebrated the Tamil New Year on Friday, would need no invitation to start afresh and with a bang.