In the second match of the day on Sunday, Rising Pune Supergiants will take on the rampant Kolkata Knight Riders in Pune. MS Dhoni’s team got off to an impressive start when they defeated defending champions Mumbai Indians in their opening encounter by an impressive margin of nine wickets. Since then, however, they have fallen away, losing all of their last three games, their latest one coming against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Pune’s bowlers failed to stop the rampaging duo of AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli, and that hurt them in a big way in the end.
In stark contrast, Kolkata have been in excellent form. They have won three of the four matches they have played so far, with the only defeat coming against Mumbai Indians, in a match where the defending champions’ batting prowess was too good for them. Their batting has been in the pink of health with the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa coming up with dazzling knocks. If they get things right again, Kolkata would prove to be too good for Rising Pune Supergiants as well.
One of the reasons Pune have failed to make much of an impact has been because their star batting line up has failed to deliver what they had promised. Ajinkya Rahane has got a couple of half-centuries, but in between he hasn’t been consistent. Faf du Plessis too has been among the runs, but not on the regular basis as expected. Steven Smith has been very poor with the bat, which is one of the key reasons why they haven’t made much of an impression. Kevin Pietersen is out retired hurt, which is another big blow, while MS Dhoni batted too slowly against Bangalore.
There were a couple of positives for Pune in the defeat against Bangalore, which they would like to build on. Thisara Perera and Rajat Bhatia opened their shoulders and almost pulled off a miraculous victory for the team in the last game, but in the end, their efforts fell short. Perera also did a reasonable job with the ball, but the others in the team definitely need to pull up their socks. A lot will be expected of the experienced duo of Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin if Pune want to do well against Kolkata at home. Murugan Ashwin will also be expected to be among the wickets.
As mentioned earlier, Kolkata’s openers have been in blazing form. But, another talented batsman Manish Pandey is out of the next couple of games with chicken pox. So a couple of other batsmen will also need to put their hands up. Also, Kolkata are strong in the all-round department, so much will be expected from the likes of Shakib Al Hasan and Andre Russell. In the bowling department, Kolkata will be led by Morne Morkel. Umesh Yadav, Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla are the other bowlers who will be expected to deliver.
--By A Cricket Analyst