Struggling Gujarat Lions is set to receive a much-needed boost with the imminent return of ace all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja during their clash against Rising Pune Supergiant in the Indian Premier League in Rajkot on Friday.
Gujarat Lions, who finished an impressive third in their maiden IPL appearance last year, have not had the best of starts in the ongoing edition of the tournament.
The Suresh Raina-led side suffered consecutive defeats against two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders and title holder Sunrisers Hyderabad in their opening two matches.
And come Friday, Gujarat Lions would be desperate to turn their fortunes around in front of home fans at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot.
Gujarat Lions will get a much-needed boost in the form of Jadeja, who is likely to play his first IPL match on Friday.
Jadeja missed Gujarat Lions’ first two games after he was advised rest for two weeks by the BCCI medical team soon after the India's four match Test series against Australia.
Jadeja has had a terrific home season with both ball and bat for India and his return will definitely boost Gujarat Lions morale.
Another key member, West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, who is recovering from injury, however is doubtful even though he took part in the team's practice session on Wednesday.
Gujarat Lions' strong point is the team's batting department. With the likes of Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Jason Roy, Raina and Dinesh Karthik up its rank, Gujarat Lions heavily depends on its batting unit.
But the likes of McCullum and Finch have failed to live up to their reputations so far, garnering just 40 and 18 runs respectively in the first two games.
Opener Jason Roy started the innings well on both occasion against KKR and SRH but failed to convert the good starts into big knocks.
Only skipper Raina, who struck unbeaten 68 against KKR at home and Karthik (47,30) have shouldered the responsibility in the middle-order.
West Indian Dwayne Smith can be destructive with the bat on his day.
But Gujarat Lions’ main problem lies in its bowling unit which lacks teeth and experience.
In the first two games, Gujarat Lions bowlers have managed to picked up only one wicket with veteran Praveen Kumar scalping the wicket of Shikhar Dhawan.
Dhawal Kulkarni, who was Lions’ most successful bowler last year, Praveen, Basil Thampi, leg-spinner Tejas Baroka and left arm chinaman Shivil Kaushik all looked ordinary in the first two games.
And Jadeja and experienced Munaf Patel's inclusion in the playing eleven will definitely add strength to Gujarat Lions bowling attack.
Rising Pune Supergiant, on the other hand, started their campaign on a winning note by beating Mumbai Indians before suffering back-to-back defeats against Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils.
Opener Ajinkya Rahane has made a half-century in the first game and would be looking to give a good start along side Mayant Agarwal.
Skipper Steven Smith, who missed their last match due to an upset stomach and Manoj Tiwary, who lost his father are expected to return to the playing eleven. Smith, Tiwary and costliest buy of IPL 10, Ben Stokes all have abilities to play big shots, but it is the form of former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni which is a cause of concern for the Pune outfit going into Friday’s game.
Dhoni, regarded as the game's best finisher, has been miserably out of touch and he would be desperate to answer his critics with a fine show with the bat.
Pune's bowling revolves around leg-spinner Imran Tahir,
but Smith would be looking for an improved showing from his pace trio of Ashok Dinda, Deepak Chahar and Stokes.
Gujarat Lions: Suresh Raina (capt), Akshadeep Nath, Shubham Agarwal, Basil Thampi, Dwayne Bravo, Chirag Suri, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Manpreet Gony, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, Dhaval Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik, Praveen Kumar, Shivil Kaushik, Brandon McCullum, Munaf Patel, Pratham Singh, Jason Roy, Pradeep Sangwan, Jaydev Shah, Shelly Shaurya, Nathusingh, Dwayne Smith, Tejas Baroka, Andre Tye.
Rising Pune Supergiant: Steve Smith (capt), Faf du Plessis, Adam Zampa, Usman Khawja, M S Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Ankus Bains, Rajat Bhatia, Ankit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Jaskarn Singh, Baba Aparajith, Deepak Chahar, Mayank Agarwal, Dnaiel Christian, Luckie Farguson, Ben Stokes and Manoj Tiwary.