Mohali, April 16: Getting his team composition right will be Mahendra Singh Dhoni's primary aim as Rising Pune Supergiants meet an out-of-sorts Kings XI Punjab in an Indian Premier League 2016 (IPL 9) tournament encounter, here tomorrow (April 17).
While the IPL debutants Supergiants have a win and a loss to show for their efforts, Kings XI Punjab has been beaten comprehensively in both their matches as they are already at the bottom of the heap.
Since the league has just about completed the first week, the tables can be turned upside down with a few back-to-back wins, which both the teams will be aiming for. For India's limited overs captain Dhoni, it has always been about getting his combination right.
He has believed in a set of players while ICC World T20 was on and persisted with them throughout the tournament despite some criticism by the pundits.
In CSK, it was a different scenario, where the Chennai franchise always had half the battle won at the auction table itself which resulted in their consistent show over the years. But in Pune, Dhoni is yet to figure out what exactly should be the combination.
"We need to look at the team composition," Dhoni had said at the post-match press conference after his team's defeat against Gujarat Lions.
While RP Singh has been Dhoni's trusted lieutenant in the India team once upon a time but the left-arm seamer has lost a lot of his sting and perhaps is not same bowler that he used to be in 2007-08 phase.
Similarly with Ishant Sharma, the problem has always been his lack of consistency in the shorter formats which has prevented him from getting longer ropes either for national team or the franchise team.
If Dhoni looks at his team, he will find that other two Indian options are Irfan Pathan and Iswar Pandey. While Pathan is no longer the player he used to be but his batting can give Dhoni a chance to play him in the playing XI.
Right-arm pacer Pandey has also not been an IPL regular but can generate a bit of bounce and swing. Dhoni did give Ashwin his full quota of overs but the past few months in shortest format has not been the best for the Tamil Nadu tweaker.
His statemate Murugan Ashwin has done decently in his debut season. The bowler who has had stand-out performance is Ranji legend Rajat Bhatia, who has kept batsmen under check bowling his gentle medium pacers with occasional cutters.
As far as the batting is concerned, sans Faf du Plessis, the others did not come good against Gujarat Lions. Kevin Pietersen couldn't really set the stage on fire and Mitch Marsh is yet to prove himself as an ideal replacement of Dwayne Bravo - someone on whom Dhoni entrusted his faith blindly irrespective of whether CSK was batting or bowling at the death.
For Kings XI Punjab, it's been another season with a sorry start. The biggest factor for KXIP has been the non-performance of their foreign recruits in both the matches.
KXIP's successful campaign in 2014 was largely due to the exploits of Glenn Maxwell (552 runs) and current skipper David Miller (446 runs), who were in prime form at that stage.
However Maxwell went off the boil during their last-place finish in 2015 when he could muster 145 runs. Miller had a decent season without being extraordinary with 357 runs to his credit.
In both matches this season, Miller and Maxwell had flopped putting too much pressure on the other batsmen. Test specialist Murali Vijay has never been the T20 player he used to be once he left Chennai Super Kings.
Young Manan Vohra has always played attractive strokes in between but against top quality bowling has been susceptible. In bowling, the team depended on Mitchell Johnson but for somebody who is already retired from international cricket, it was not possible to come and make an impact straightaway in a top-level T20 competition.
His new ball partner Sandeep Sharma does not have the pace to trouble batsmen consistently. He burst into the scene in 2014 but have been able to do very little post that performance. In a nutshell, Pune Supergiants start as favourites.
Kings XI Punjab: David Miller (captain), Kyle Abbott, Murali Vijay, Manan Vohra, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Anureet Singh, Axar Patel, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Pardeep Sahu, Sandeep Sharma, Mohit Sharma, Marcus Stoinis, Swapnil Singh, Armaan Jaffer, Farhaan Behardien, KC Cariappa, Rishi Dhawan, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Nikhil Naik, Shardul Thakur.
Rising Pune Supergiants: MS Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Ajinkya Rahane, Kevin Pietersen, Faf du Plessis, Steve Smith, Mitchell Marsh, Jaskaran Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ankit Sharma, Albie Morkel, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Thisara Perera, Saurabh Tiwary, RP Singh, Rajat Bhatia, Ankush Bains, Baba Aparajith, Murugan Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Deepak Chahar, Scott Boland, Peter Handscomb, Adam Zampa.
Match starts 4 PM IST
At 8 PM - RCB Vs DD in Bengaluru (Match Preview)