Having lost their Indian Premier League opener in their debut season, Kochi Tuskers Kerala would be eager to turn things around quickly when they lock horns with the other new franchise Pune Warriors at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday.
For this to happen the Kochi bowling attack, that includes maverick pacer S Sreesanth and India discard Rudra Pratap Singh, needs to pull up its socks and deliver the goods.
Kochi’s batting clicked reasonably well as the team managed to post a challenging total of 161 for five against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
But the bowlers failed to show sufficient discipline to defend that score, resulting in a six-wicket defeat at home.
Against Yuvraj Singh-led Warriors, who recorded a comprehensive seven-wicket victory a day later against Kings XI Punjab to start their IPL campaign on a promising note, the Kochi attack needs to show better control.
“Batting is our strength,” Yuvraj had said ahead of their lung opener against Punjab but the Pune bowlers and fielders also rose to the occasion to help their team register a thumping win with plenty of overs to spare.
The Tuskers bowlers, including Sri Lanka ace Muttiah Muralitharan, thus need to be at their best to apply brakes on the free-stroking Warriors batsmen like New Zealander Jesse Ryder, Yuvraj and Robin Uthappa.
The trio chipped in with useful knocks, along with seasoned domestic campaigner Mithun Manhas, as Pune easily overhauled the modest score of 112 put up by Punjab in the previous game.
The Warriors bowlers also used the extra bounce on the wicket to unsettle the rival batsmen and, but for Ryan McLaren’s excellent, unbeaten half-century, Kings XI would have folded up for under 100 after being reduced to 9 for 4 at one stage.
Pune’s new ball bowlers — rookie left arm medium pacer Shrikant Wagh and 34-year-old South African Alphonso Thomas – produced excellent initial bursts to help their side snatch away the initiative quite early against Punjab.
The 22-year-old Wagh from Buldana impressed on a helpful wicket and made Warriors forget the absence of India’s World Cup-winning team member Ashish Nehra, who is injured.
But more testing times lie ahead of the youngster.
Yuvraj, who had impressed in the World Cup by bagging 15 wickets with his left arm slow ones, did not bowl at all – an indication that his team has the bowlers to make use of different conditions.
Kochi need to be wary of the extra lift and movement the wicket offers the medium pacers, and, in turn, would have to try and use it to their advantage when they have their turn.
The Kerala Tuskers have a good batting line up, in which Brendon McCullum is the ideal man to provide the early momentum in the company of V V S Laxman who, along with captain Mahela Jayawardene, brings a touch of class to it.
In veteran Australian Brad Hodge, with a lot of first class experience, they have a player who can accelerate things in the middle of the innings — or keep it tight for a bit if needed — along with allrounder Ravindra Jadeja.
Perhaps, Kochi could think of promoting the attacking Parthiv Patel higher up the order, instead of holding the left handed stumper-batsman down and losing his effectiveness.
The flop show by Kerala Ranji player Raiphi Gomez with the ball and the bat, has put his place in danger and Balachandra Akhil, who is a similar type of player, could be brought in.
Pune Warriors India: Yuvraj Singh (capt), Robin Uthappa (wk), Murali Kartik, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Deeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Ganesh Gaikwad, Harpreet Singh Bhatia, Harshad Khadiwale, Kamran Khan, Mithun Manhas, Mohnish Mishra, Rahul Sharma, Sachin Rana, Shrikant Wagh, Shrikant Mundhe, Imtiyaz Ahmed.
Kochi Tuskers Kerala: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Brendon McCullum, Parthiv Patel (wk), VVS Laxman, Owais Shah, Brad Hodge, Ravindra Jadeja, Thisara Perera, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ramesh Powar, R Vinay Kumar, Muttiah Muralitharan, B Akhil, Chandan Madan, Deepak Chougule, Kedar Jadav, Raiphi Gomez, Sushant Marathe, Tanmay Srivastava, Y Gnaneswara Rao, Yashpal Singh, Prasanth Padmanabhan.