Rising Pune Supergiants, licking their wounds after so many reverses in their inaugural season, were at the Ferozeshah Kotla for practice on Wednesday ahead of the game against Delhi Daredevils. None exemplified the downcast mood in the team better than Ishant Sharma, the strike bowler, who has been played in just four matches, taking three wickets.
Captain MS Dhoni and R Ashwin were not present and coaches Stephen Fleming and Eric Simons were trying to make sense from the depleted squad with them.
This season’s IPL is going through a meltdown, and injury woes, especially those of Pune, have had a knock on effect. Dhoni’s team had banked heavily on Kevin Pietersen, Faf du Plessis and Steve Smith but all have pulled out due to injury.
In a desperate move, Big Bash League’s second most successful batsman, Usman Khawaja (who was the second highest run-getter and averaged 172), has been called up after he was ignored at the auctions in February. Fellow Aussie George Bailey, who averaged 60 in Big Bash but was also given the boot at the auctions, has also been signed on.
Both attended practice on a day when Kings XI Punjab announced the signing of Hashim Amla, another accomplished batsman who was ignored at the auctions, to replace the injured Shaun Marsh.
It seems there were too many batsmen available during the auctions. But running out of options, the teams are being forced to bring in those not deemed fit for their requirements.
The two Aussies are expected to form the core of the Pune batting along with Ajinkya Rahane. Simons was seen explaining to Khawaja the adjustments he may have to make, something along the lines that the ball will stop before coming onto the bat and how he must tackle DD’s slow bowlers.
Weakened batting is just one worry for Dhoni. The bowling has been terrible. Their most successful bowler economy rate-wise, Mitchell Marsh, too has pulled out due to injury. Ishant apart, the other pacers too have been ordinary, leaving a lot of work for off-spinner R Ashwin.
Ashwin, who has clicked in just one game, should be excited with the pitch marked for Thursday, the one where DD’s match with KXIP was played and leg spinner Amit Mishra picked four wickets. But DDCA pitch committee chief, Chetan Chauhan, is there to spoil the joy. He says it’ll be a 180 wicket.
That may not make spin-reliant Daredevils happy either.