However, coach Mahela Jayawardene defended the decision, saying it was a tactical move, although it didn’t pay off in the tie played at Pune on Thursday.
The former Sri Lanka skipper might reassess the decision on Harbhajan, the fifth highest wicket-taker in IPL. However, Jayawardene clarified: “Bhajji wasn’t dropped. It was just a combination. Tactically we decided first game, given the opposition, that’s the way we wanted to go. Simple as that, definitely not dropped in the way that you want me to say it.”
Left-arm spinner Krunal Pandya was played instead, and he scored three runs and conceded 21 runs in two overs without taking a wicket. “Given that it was a green wicket and they had two leg-spinners(Imran Tahir and Adam Zampa), one went for runs and just one took wickets off pretty straight balls. I think we were in the game, tactically we got it right. We thought 184 was quite a high score at that venue. They batted really well to get that,” he said.
Wary of KKR
Jayawardene though is wary of twice former champions Kolkata Knight Riders, who crushed Gujarat Lions by 10 wickets in Rajkot on Friday. KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir and Chris Lynn decimated the Gujarat attack.
“They’re a very good opposition, very formidable unit. That group has been together for quite some time now. They know how to win matches, how to win championships. We have to be mindful of that.
“But we have to play to our strengths, and we’ve got a very good team. Just go out and execute our game plans and have a good game,” he told reporters.
There is speculation that Shah Rukh Khan, the KKR co-owner, may come to the Wankhede Stadium to watch the game. The Bollywood superstar was involved in a huge altercation with a stadium guard in 2012 after KKR’s win over Mumbai Indians, and was handed a five-year stadium ban. Though the Mumbai Cricket Association lifted the ban two years ago, Shah Rukh hasn’t come to the ground to cheer the KKR team.