A fortnight can be a long time in the IPL. Team Pune know that only too well, because the last time they tasted victory was on April 21 against Delhi. Since then they have lost five games in a row and have slipped to eighth place in the standings.
The defeats include the narrow one-run loss to Mumbai and a nerve-wracking game against Kolkata, not to mention the ignominy of being the only team to go down – and twice at that – to this season’s punching bags Hyderabad.
After a promising start to the season when they won the opening two matches, suddenly a playoff berth seems a mirage. With only four matches to go in the league stage, Sourav Ganguly’s men have their task cut out. The hype preceding the tie against Kolkata in Kolkata is bound to take a mental toll on the players. It will require a Herculean effort from the team to bounce back from such a draining defeat.
The team’s energetic medium pacer Ashok Dinda sounded upbeat, though. “Anything is possible. We have to win just four matches in a row,” he said in a Steve Waugh-like manner. “T20 is such a format where winning becomes a habit. One win can energize you and give you the momentum.”
Rajasthan will be aware of that, having snapped their own four-match losing streak with a convincing 43-run win over Punjab in their last game. “Yes, that win has certainly given us the advantage of having the momentum,” said Rajasthan pacer Siddharth Trivedi.
The architect of that victory was Shaun Tait, whose express pace will be a threat to the stuttering Pune lineup.
Like last year, the hosts have failed to chase modest totals. Dinda, however, refused to blame the batsmen for the team’s predicament. “For a team to win, all three departments have to do well together. Some of the games we lost we must have won,” he said. But in the same breath, Dinda dealt a blow to the team’s hopes, revealing he was a doubtful starter due to a recurring side strain.
Rajasthan’s batting looks comparatively formidable with Shane Watson and Ajinkya Rahane at the top. That could prove to be the difference between the two sides. Throw in the method captaincy of Rahul Dravid and the spontaneous one of Ganguly, the contrast between the teams is complete.