Nothing seems to be going right for MS Dhoni since he has donned the multi-coloured jersey of the Rising Pune Supergiants.
He hasn’t had a settled line-up, injuries to players like Kevin Pietersen and Faf du Plessis, who were to play a crucial role in the jigsaw hampered his strategies and ineffective bowling hasn’t helped his cause. All of those were primary reasons for his success with the Chennai Super Kings.
On Friday, if he had harboured the hopes of recording their third victory of the season after Ajinkya Rahane (53) and Steve Smith (101) helped them post 196, their highest total this edition, they were soon diminished.
And they were dashed by none other than his former lieutenants at the CSK – Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith. The memories of their days together down south would have come rushing back to Dhoni as he would sit in the dugout while both laid the foundation for him in CSK colours.
This time, though, he stood behind the wicket and could only see the ball going to different parts of the ground as both went about tearing into his bowlers. By the time McCullum was done, making 22-ball 43, the duo had stitched a 93-run stand off just 42 balls to take the match away from Pune, well almost. Dwayne Smith hit a 36-ball 63 to keep his good run in the IPL going.
Later, it was the turn of another of Dhoni’s trusted players, Suresh Raina, to take Gujarat Lions closer to victory and keep them atop the standings. It also continued the trend of teams successfully chasing down targets.
Lions almost faltered towards the end. Needing nine off the final over and a four off the first a series of wickets prolonged the match and a three-wicket win till the final ball.
McCullum had been rather sedate at the start of the tournament and there was more talk about his fluorescent pads and shoes than his shots. It changed in the last match against the Delhi Daredevils as his bat did all the talking. It continued at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Friday.
Smith also didn’t get a look in until couple of matches ago as Aaron Finch, who set the pace for the Lions in the early matches, was the Lions’ first choice to partner McCullum. But with Finch injured, Smith came in and made a quick impact.
Both curbed their aggressive instincts just for the first few balls before hitting the accelerator, taking on the Pune bowlers, not allowing them to settle down.
Pune coach Stephen Fleming was very critical of their bowling after their loss against Kolkata Knight Riders last week, stating they had more than enough runs on the board to get over the line even though they had scored 160.
But they looked hapless once again, defending an even bigger total. They couldn’t take the momentum set by their batsmen to their bowling and were deprived of ideas as McCullum and Smith went about culling them.
Dhoni’s best bowler, R Ashwin, who is going through a lean phase of late, also failed to inspired them as the wicket offered him very little help whatsoever.