Rising Pune Supergiants may have come close to an unlikely win against Gujarat Lions on Friday, but the weaknesses in their bowling were again exposed.
The lack of variety in the ranks means the opposition makes the attack look pedestrian, and the failure of the spearheads to lead from the front compounds the problem. The combination has prevented them from competing for a place in the knockouts.
Royal Challengers Bangalore are also an example of what happens when the bowling attack lacks depth. As a result, they have accumulated just four points even though Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers have set the tournament alight.
Ishant Sharma and RP Singh started out as Pune’s pace spearheads but their inability to contain batsmen and land telling blows meant they went out of favour after playing four and two matches respectively.
What’s hurt Pune the most is the failure of R Ashwin. A proven performer, he hasn’t been able to make breakthroughs or contain the batsmen. He has just two scalps from seven outings at a strike rate of 66, his worst figures in IPL since his debut in 2009.
The only time Ashwin looked menacing was against Hyderabad Sunrisers, but by the time he came on to bowl, Ashok Dinda and Mitchell Marsh had already rattled the opposition.
On Friday, Dinda was their frontline seamer, backed by all-rounders Thisara Perera, Rajat Bhatia and Albie Morkel.
Dinda did infuse some pace into the line-up but his inconsistency meant he could not nail the Lions, bowling loose deliveries to release the pressure. Perera and Morkel too were clueless when Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith hammered deliveries which were either full or short.
When skipper MS Dhoni turned to M Ashwin in the closing stages, the leggie bowled an excellent 18th over, but it wasn’t enough.
Centurion Steve Smith agreed the bowling wasn’t up to the mark. “I thought we were a bit disappointing with the way we bowled. I think we chopped and changed a little bit too much, rather than being nice and patient and hitting a good line and length, and making them go after the good balls. Anytime you do that, your chances of taking a wicket increases and if you take a wicket up top when you’re chasing 195, it makes things very difficult,” he said.
With matches in hand, Pune still have an opportunity to make it to the knockouts, but for that their bowling has to be effective than what it has been.