The push has come to shove for Chennai Super Kings, who find themselves in an all too familiar situation of having to get up from the floor and start punching all over again in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as they play host to Pune Warriors in Chennai on Monday.
Last season, the Super Kings were on the brink of elimination, but bounced back to go all the way and win the tournament. But it is a moot point whether they can repeat that performance as the champions are languishing on four points from five games, the same as debutants Pune who have played one game less.
Having lost three games, two of them on the trot, the Super Kings would be looking to their skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to provide the spark, like he did last season with that memorable innings at Dharmasala that turned their fortunes around.
The hosts can take heart from the fact that both their wins this season have come on home soil and the Super Kings would be hoping to sustain the win-spree at Chepauk.
Warriors skipper Yuvraj Singh, Man of the Tournament at the 2011 ICC World Cup, too has his work cut out after two consecutive losses in four outings, and as in the case of Dhoni, the onus is on him to regroup his forces to renew the assault.
Given the trend in the 2011 IPL, it will take a bold man with a dash of recklessness to predict the outcome, but the Super Kings have been in this situation before and the experience should see them past the Warriors on the morrow.
The three defeats that the Super Kings have suffered this season were in winnable matches and the reverses have mainly been due to their inability to fire as a unit. Their bowling at the death cost them two games while their much-heralded batting collapsed in the last match against Mumbai Indians when within sight of victory.
The lack of cohesiveness, coupled with inconsistent fielding in a format that puts premium on virtually every run, has led to their downfall, and yet, the optimists among the Super Kings fans believe they still have the firepower to get back on track.
In contrast to the virtually settled combination that the Super Kings boast of, it has been about getting together as a team for the Warriors in their debut season.
After the early promise when they won their opening two games, the Warriors lost the next two despite Yuvraj’s stellar all-round performances. Thus, the Warriors are in a situation where they need to find a winning combination to progress.
Following the auctions in January, it was thought that the Super Kings, along with Mumbai Indians, had the most balanced and settled squad, but the results have been contrary to this belief.
As for the Warriors, their performance has not exactly matched the potential, both in batting and bowling, and yet, in patches, they have shown the sort of explosiveness that can take apart any opponent.
In the event, it appears to be a battle between equals under lights Monday with the pressure more on the Super Kings to stand and deliver while Pune, being the first-timers, have less to lose and everything to gain.