Rajkot, April 13: Struggling Gujarat Lions (GL) are set to receive a much-needed boost with the imminent return of ace all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja for their clash against Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017 here tomorrow (April 14).
Gujarat, who finished an impressive 3rd in their maiden IPL appearance last year, did not have the best of starts in the ongoing edition of the tournament.
The Suresh Raina-led side suffered consecutive defeats against two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and title holder Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in their opening two matches.
Desperate to win
And come tomorrow, Gujarat would be desperate to turn their fortunes around in front of home fans at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here.
Gujarat got a much-needed boost in the form of Jadeja, who is likely to play his first IPL match tomorrow.
Jadeja missed Gujarat's first two games after he was advised rest for two weeks by the BCCI medical team soon after the India's four match Test series against Australia.
Jadeja has had a terrific home season with both ball and bat for India and his return will definitely boost Gujarat's morale.
Another key member, West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, who is recovering from injury, however is doubtful even though he took part in the team's practice session yesterday. Gujarat's strong point is the team's batting department.
With the likes of Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Jason Roy, Raina and Dinesh Karthik up its rank, Gujarat heavily depend on its batting unit.
But the likes of McCullum and Finch have failed to live upto their reputations so far, garnering just 40 and 18 runs respectively in the first two games.
Opener Jason Roy started the innings well on both occasion against KKR and SRH but failed to convert the good starts into big knocks.
Only skipper Raina, who struck unbeaten 68 against KKR at home and Karthik (47,30) have shouldered the responsibility in the middle-order. West Indian Dwayne Smith can be destructive with the bat on his day.
But Gujarat's main problem lies in its bowling unit which lacks teeth and experience.
In the first two games, Gujarat's bowlers have managed to picked up only one wicket with veteran Praveen Kumar scalping the wicket of Shikhar Dhawan.
Will Munaf play?
Dhawal Kulkarni, who was Gujarat's most successful bowler last year, Praveen, Basil Thampi, leg-spinner Tejas Baroka and left arm chinaman Shivil Kaushik all looked ordinary in the first two games.
And Jadeja and experienced Munaf Patel's inclusion in the playing eleven will definitely add strength to Gujarat bowling attack.
Pune, on the other hand, started their campaign on a winning note by beating Mumbai Indians (MI) before suffering back-to-back defeats against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Delhi Daredevils (DD).
Opener Ajinkya Rahane has made a half-century in the first game and would be looking to give a good start along side Mayant Agarwal.
Smith to be back
Skipper Steve Smith, who missed their last match due to an upset stomach and Manoj Tiwary, who lost his father are expected to return to the playing eleven.
Smith, Tiwary and costliest buy of IPL 10, Ben Stokes all have abilities to play big shots, but it is the form of former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni which is a cause of concern for the Pune outfit going into tomorrow's game.
Dhoni, regarded as the game's best finisher, has been miserably out of touch and he would be desperate to answer his critics with a fine show with the bat.
Pune's bowling revolves around leg-spinner Imran Tahir, but Smith would be looking for an improved showing from his pace trio of Ashok Dinda, Deepak Chahar and Stokes.
Gujarat Lions: Suresh Raina (captain), Akshadeep Nath, Shubham Agarwal, Basil Thampi, Dwayne Bravo, Chirag Suri, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Manpreet Gony, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Praveen Kumar, Shivil Kaushik, Brandon McCullum, Munaf Patel, Pratham Singh, Jason Roy, Pradeep Sangwan, Jaydev Shah, Shelly Shaurya, Nathusingh, Dwayne Smith, Tejas Baroka, Andrew Tye.
Rising Pune Supergiant: Steve Smith (captain), Faf du Plessis, Adam Zampa, Usman Khawja, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicketkeeper), Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Ankus Bains, Rajat Bhatia, Ankit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Jaskarn Singh, Baba Aparajith, Deepak Chahar, Mayank Agarwal, Dnaiel Christian, Luckie Farguson, Ben Stokes and Manoj Tiwary.
Match starts 8 PM IST - LIVE on Sony SIX, Sony Max, Sony ESPN
Also playing on April 14 at 4 PM IST - Bangalore Vs Mumbai in Bengaluru
Saturday's (April 15) matches
Kolkata Vs Hyderabad (Kolkata) - 4 PM IST
Delhi Vs Punjab (Delhi) - 8 PM IST
Gujarat's next match - Vs Mumbai in Mumbai on April 16 (Sunday) - 4 PM IST
Pune's next match - Vs Bangalore in Bengaluru on April 16 - 8 PM IST