Pune: With a new captain in place, Rising Pune Supergiant would look to make amends for a poor last season but have a tough opening battle at hand against two-time former champions Mumbai Indians here on Thursday.
Pune decided to replace Mahendra Singh Dhoni with Steve Smith in the leadership role. Under Dhoni, who has only played as skipper in the previous nine Indian Premier League editions, Pune could win just five matches in their debut season last year.
While Dhoni would be desperate to prove a point with his blazing blade -- a fitting reply for being stripped off captaincy, Smith will look to forget Australia’s 1-2 loss against India in a draining Test series recently.
Dhoni might have led the now defunct team Chennai Super Kings exceedingly well in the past but proving his worth as a player with the new franchise is a challenge that the former India captain will be more than keen to conquer.
However, all eyes would be on Ben Stokes, who was bought for a whopping Rs 14.5 crore, and his performance with both the bat and ball will be equated with his hefty pay package.
Smith and Faf du Plessis both got injured the last time but they would like to make amends in this edition of the cash-rich tournament. The Supergiant will be banking on Ajinkya Rahane, who scored 480 runs at 43.63 with six fifties in the last edition, to come good with the bat again.
In the absence of star India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashok Dinda will spearhead the team’s bowling. The rather weak Pune bowling attack would have its task cut out against a strong Mumbai batting line-up.
Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma’s form at the top will be important, while Kieron Pollard and Jos Buttler’s big hits, and veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh’s guile would decide how the team would fare.
Mumbai are one team that has not been ravaged by injuries. This will allow them to pick from a talented pool of overseas and Indian cricketers, including Mitchell Johnson, Lendl Simmons, Lasith Malinga, who is expected to join the team tomorrow, Mitchell McClenaghan, Parthiv Patel and Jasprit Bumrah among others....