The two new teams in IPL 2016 -- Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions -- have had contrasting starts to their campaign. Gujarat Lions have been brilliant, winning five of their last six matches, while the Rising Pune Supergiants have been poor, losing four their six games. The two teams clash at the MCA Stadium in Pune on Friday.
Both teams comprise of some big names in world cricket, but the RPS players have not stood up to the task. It is time their star players shine on their home turf and send warning signs to other teams in the competition.
But, RPS have received a huge setback with two foreign players – Kevin Pietersen and Faf du Plessis – ruled out of the competition, which means that others in the team need to shoulder more responsibility. Umsan Khawaja has been named as one of the replacements, but is unlikely to feature in today's game.
Du Plessis is going to be a huge miss for MS Dhoni and his team, as the South African player has been a huge figure at the top of the order for RPS, alongside Ajinkya Rahane, who will be under pressure to give the home team a good start.
RPS can move Steve Smith up the order, and play him as an opener, or else hand Peter Handscomb his IPL debut. Handscomb has been a consistent performer in the domestic circuit in Australia, and will be itching to show his skills in Pune.
Besides this one change, one does not see any alteration for RPS, who will need their all-rounders like Mitchell Marsh, Thisara Perera and Rajat Bhatia to deliver.
The Gujarat Lions, who survived a Chris Morris scare in the last match, are not expected to make much changes in their team that featured against the Delhi Daredevils. Their batsmen like Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Dinesh Karthik have scored runs in IPL 2016, which is good sign for the visitors.
Australian batsman Aaron Finch did not feature against Delhi Daredevils with a hamstring injury, but even if he recovers, Smith might not sit out as he has scored 32 and 53 in his last two innings. However, if the team management wants to field Finch and strengthen their batting lineup, James Faulkner could be benched.
The Gujarat Lions have not made many changes in their staring eleven in IPL 2016, and have a settled lineup. What makes their team a strong unit is their good mix of players, comprising batsmen, bowlers and all-rounders, which has helped them top the IPL 2016 points table.
Expected playing XI: Rising Pune Supergiants: Ajinkya Rahane, Peter Handscomb, Steven Smith, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Saurabh Tiwary, Mitchell Marsh, Thisara Perera, Rajat Bhatia, R Ashwin, M Ashwin, Ashok Dinda.
Gujarat Lions: Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Suresh Raina (c), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Dwayne Bravo, James Faulkner, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Pravin Tambe.