Jaipur: Pune Warriors India are already out of play-offs contention but they can very well spoil Rajasthan Royals' party when these sides meet here at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Sunday.
Rajasthan have won six of their 10 matches so far and need to win at least two of their remaining five matches to put themselves at ease. On paper, it doesn't look like a big task but it wouldn't be that easy considering that the lesser teams are hell-bent to salvage some pride during the business end of the tournament.
Rajasthan had a horrible outing against Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday night after their batsman could only muster a lowly 132. They can't afford to have another bad day like that. Overall, under Rahul Dravid's leadership, Rajasthan have blown hot and cold so far. It's about time that they brought some consistency into their game.
File photo of Rajasthan Royals team-mates celebrating during a match in IPL 6. (BCCI)
Pune have had a terrible season, losing nine of their 11 games, but interestingly they beat Rajasthan the last time these two teams met on April 11.
Pune have lost six matches on the bounce but one thing has gone in their favour in the last few days. Angelo Mathews, the designated captain of side at the start of the season, finally relinquished his role on Thursday ahead of the match against Royal Challengers Bangalore after coming under immense pressure because of his failure with both bat and ball. That means Aaron Finch is no longer a makeshift captain for Pune and will continue to lead for the remainder of the tournament. The surety and clarity on the captaincy issue might just put the players in a better frame of mind. In fact, surprising as it may sound, their performance did improve against Bangalore as Pune fought till the end losing by 17 runs in pursuit of 188.
However, the odds are not in Pune's favour as they have won just once against Rajasthan in four encounters. Another thing that makes Rajasthan the favourites is that they have been formidable at home, winning their last five encounters here. Having said that, Pune have nothing to lose and that might just rev them up.
Pune Warriors India: 1 Robin Uthappa (wk), 2 Aaron Finch (capt), 3, T Suman 4, Yuvraj Singh, 5 Steve Smith, 6, Angelo Mathews 7 Abhishek Nayar, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Ashok Dinda, 11 Rahul Sharma
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Rahul Dravid (capt), 4 Sanju Samson, 5 Dishant Yagnik (wk), 6 Owais Shah, 7 Stuart Binny, 8 James Faulkner, 9 Ankeet Chavan, 10 Brad Hogg, 11 Siddarth Trivedi