Pune, April 21: Mahendra Singh Dhoni's form will remain in focus when the struggling Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) square off against defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad in an IPL 2017 encounter here tomorrow (April 22).
Playing only their second edition of the IPL, Pune are lying seventh in the table with four points after losing three matches and winning two in their last five outings so far.
Pune had suffered three successive losses but Steve Smith's men snapped the losing streak with a win against Royal Challengers Bangalore in their last outing and they will be eager to carry the momentum tomorrow.
Dhoni's poor form
For Pune, the form of former skipper Dhoni is a cause of concern. With scores like 12 not out, 5, 11, 5, 28, Dhoni looks far from being the swashbuckling batsman that he has been in the past.
Regarded as one of the game's best finishers, Dhoni's performance has always been the key for his former team Chennai Super Kings, a side he led to the title in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Pune would hope he gets his midas touch back.
Pune's batting has so far revolved around skipper Smith and Ajinkya Rahane, who have been their best run-scorers.
After their last match, Smith decided to take a short six-day tour of Dubai with his wife and baby. The break should rejuvenate the prolific Australian, whose form is crucial for the side.
All-rounder Ben Stokes, the costliest buy of IPL 10, too has contributed with a half century against Kings XI Punjab in Indore.
Tahir the best
In the bowling department, leg-spinner Imran Tahir has been Pune's best bowler with eight wickets, while Shardul Thakur and Stokes have also claimed fours wickets each. But the team's bowling still lacks the zing which is required to challenge an opponent.
Reigning champions Hyderabad, on the other hand, have been pretty consistent with four wins out of six matches to be placed at the third position.
After a rampaging start, Sunrisers suffered lossesagainst Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders in successive matches but they brought their campaign back on track with victories over Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils.
Skipper David Warner has led his team from the front, scoring bulk of their runs and he has been supported well by India's Shikhar Dhawan.
Both the batsmen have scored more than 200 runs so far in IPL and they would look to continue their rich vein of form tomorrow.
Bowling has complemented Hyedrabad's batsmen with seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar and young Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan holding the first and third spots respectively in the highest wicket-takers' list with 15 and 9 wickets respectively so far.
Rising Pune Supergiant: Steve Smith (captain), Faf du Plessis, Adam Zampa, Usman Khawja, MS Dhoni (wicketkeeper), Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Ankus Bains, Rajat Bhatia, Ankit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Jaskarn Singh, Baba Aparajith, Deepak Chahar, Mayank Agarwal, Dnaiel Christian, Lockie Ferguson, Ben Stokes and Manoj Tiwary.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (captain), Tanmay Agarwal, Ricky Bhui, Bipul Sharma, Ben Cutting, Shikhar Dhawan, Eklavya Dwivedi, Moises Henriques, Deepak Hooda, Chris Jordan, Siddharth Kaul, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ben Laughlin, Abhimanyu Mithun, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammed Siraj, Mustafizur Rahman, Ashish Nehra, Naman Ojha (wicketkeeper), Rashid Khan, Vijay Shankar, Barinder Sran, Pravin Tambe, Kane Williamson and Yuvraj Singh.
Match starts at 4 PM IST - LIVE on Sony SIX, Sony Max, Sony ESPN
Also playing on Saturday (April 22) - Mumbai Vs Delhi in Mumbai - 8 PM
Sunday's matches (April 23)
Gujarat Vs Punjab in Rajkot - 4 PM
Kolkata Vs Bangalore in Kolkata - 8 PM
Pune's next match - Vs Mumbai in Mumbai on April 24 (Monday) - 8 PM
Hyderabad's next match - Vs Bangalore in Bengaluru on April 25 (Tuesday) - 8 PM