PUNE: They announced themselves in the IPL in style, thrashing reigning champions Mumbai Indians by nine wickets. But that has been the only highlight so far for Rising Pune Supergiants, one of the two new kids on the block, as they prepare for their first ever home match against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday.
And reviewing the performance of his three-match old side on the eve of the match, Pune coach Stephen Fleming said his team’s problems are what any new team will face when they are parachuted into a competition and the way out is to get the combinations right and fast. “The greatest challenge for us is that unlike other teams, we don’t have an existing nucleus of players,” the former New Zealand captain said. “We have been trying very hard to get to know the people in the squad, the system we want them to play in and how the captain (MS Dhoni) wants to use spin or pace. So there are a lot of questions to be answered.
“We are trying to accelerate that process — to get good information going forward on what the best combinations we can put out,” he said, adding that his group of players will get better with improved cohesion within the team.
One of the questions being asked about the Pune side is Dhoni’s reliance on leg spinner Murugan Ashwin rather than on his more experienced namesake - Ravichandran Ashwin. Commending the Tamil Nadu bowler, the coach said Murugan had done a solid job whenever called upon. “He has been doing really well given his lack of experience and is doing everything asked of him so far,” Fleming said.
The coach also pointed out that despite being new to the venue, they have what it takes to produce a good performance against RCB on Friday. “We know there are a couple of areas which we can exploit. But on any given day, a great performance from a player can turn the tie. And Bangalore have great players like AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli,” he said.
Like Pune, Royal Challengers Bangalore are also on a two-match losing streak. RCB made six changes to their side in their defeat to Mumbai. While batsmen Travis Head and KL Rahul, who came in for Chris Gayle and Kedar Jadhav, were among the runs, their changed bowling attack comprising Varun Aaron, Kane Richardson, and Iqbal was still expensive and lacked sting.
Gayle who flew back to the Caribbean for the birth of his baby girl ‘Blush’ will miss Friday’s match as well while more changes, especially among the bowlers, will be in order as captain Virat Kohli tries to strike the right balance with his squad during the early days of the tournament.