Having begun their campaign in a rousing fashion by beating the Mumbai Indians in a thriller on Thursday night at home, Rising Pune Supergiant will look to keep the momentum going when they take on last year's bottom-placed team Kings XI Punjab at the MPCA Stadium here on Saturday afternoon.
The only impediment for the Pune team could be fatigue, as this game comes without a gap after their opener, and the heat. The temperature here could reach as high as 37 degrees. In that sense, the Kings XI Punjab team is better off the 'hosts' play three matches here before they move to Mohali, and have been camping here for the for the past days.
Both Pune and Punjab had a poor IPL 2016 - RPS finished second last after losing nine and winning five out of their 14 games, while Kings brought up the rear as they lost 10 and won four. On paper, though, it's Pune who hold the aces.
The primary reason why the Supergiant look favourites is the presence of their new captain, Steve Smith - arguably the best batsman in world cricket on current form. While Ajinkya Rahane gave a cracking start to Pune the other day with his 34-ball 60, it was the Australian skipper's magical innings, a breathtaking, unbeaten 84 off 60 balls, including two sixes off Pollard's final two balls, with helped them chase down 184 against Mumbai.
Like Pune, KXIP too have a new captain this time, and he too is an Aussie. But unlike Smith, Glenn Maxwell, despite all his talent, has much to do to prove himself. In his second innings in the game as the director of cricket operations at Kings XI Punjab, Virender Sehwag has taken a huge punt by the appointing the 'Big Show' as his skipper. All Maxwell managed in the last IPL season was 179 runs in 11 games @19.88. It would be interesting to see if the responsibility of leadership brings the best out of this ultra-attacking batsman.