During Rising Pune Supergiants training session at Eden Gardens on Friday, Murugan Ashwin –recovered from a niggle – had been bowling on a green patch and was turning his leg-breaks square. In the main nets, Adam Zampa was in action, extracting excellent bounce. The two young leggies have made a serious impression in their first IPL season.
It’s another issue that Pune collectively have failed to perform and are all but out of contention to make the playoffs with six points from 11 matches. Injuries to Kevin Pietersen, Faf du Plessis, Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh contributed to their slide. Also, relocation of their matches to Vizag meant the franchise never had a home game at the back end of the tournament. They will play for pride against Kolkata Knight Riders.
M Ashwin and Zampa (also Amit Mishra) have been exceptions in a tournament dominated by pace so far. Mitchell McClenaghan, Andre Russell, Shane Watson, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mustafizur Rahman feature in the top five in the list of highest wicket-takers. It’s a little strange, given that spinners had called the shots in the World T20.
Kolkata captain Gautam Gambhir agreed. “It’s a little weird. You are expecting the wickets to be tired especially after the T20 World cup but apparently the wickets have been very good. It’s tough for the bowlers and normally it has been very good wickets to bat on. I’m always a believer of giving home advantage to the home side. There’s nothing wrong in it,” he said
He added: “There have spinners who have done reasonably well in this tournament. Piyush Chawla has bowled really well for us. Sunil Narine, coming back, has done well for us, Shakib too has done well. It also depends on the captains on how they use the spinners. Sometimes if you don’t have that much of confidence in your spinners you might not even end up bowling their four overs. Amit Mishra got two wickets in the previous game but didn’t bowl his quota of four overs…”
Kolkata had lost their last match against Gujarat Lions on a seamer-friendly surface, but the pitch for the Saturday night entertainer looks barren and might offer turn. There’s a possibility, though, the ploy could backfire. Although R Ashwin had largely been peripheral before taking 1/16 in four overs in the last game against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
“He (captain MS Dhoni) made some on-field calls about going to other areas of our attack. I know it causes much speculation. But believe me he (Ashwin) is still highly valued in our side. He bowled beautifully in the last game when the conditions were right and got 1/16. We know his talent, but conditions have often dictated (the approach). It certainly nothing more than that,” Pune coach Stephen Fleming said.
Rains, though, have put the match under a cloud. The Nor’wester hit the city on Friday evening. The entire Eden outfield, however, had been put under wraps. Weather rain plays a spoilsport on Saturday remains to be seen.