IPL 2016 May 22, 2016

Supergiants make tragicomic start to IPL

Injuries to several key players and an ineffective bowling attack resulted in an underwhelming debut season for MS Dhoni's men
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MS Dhoni's innovative methods to stop the ball behind the stumps were special © BCCI

Where they finished

Seventh. The first team to be knocked out, Rising Pune Supergiants were powered to a last-ball victory in their final game, against Kings XI Punjab, after MS Dhoni's 4,6,6 off the final three balls helped them avoid the wooden spoon.

How they got there

Supergiants' overseas contingent in their first match read: Faf du Plessis, Kevin Pietersen, Steven Smith and Mitchell Marsh. The side enjoyed a winning start but, by the beginning of May, all those players had been ruled out due to injuries. Then, rookie legspinner M Ashwin, who impressed with his ripping googlies, joined the walking wounded with a side strain. Right-arm seamer Deepak Chahar, who made his IPL debut this season and played in Supergiants' last two games, had suffered an injury during the early stages of the tournament, according to Dhoni. At a few stages, it seemed like the team would need their coach Stephen Fleming to pad up.

Supergiants called for reinforcements in the Australian pair of Usman Khawaja and George Bailey. The left-hand opener took to Twitter and complained in jest of a typo on his jersey. Bailey avoided a possible injury when his helmet was detached by a sharp Nathan Coulter-Nile bouncer. A dog interrupted Supergiants' chase in their final two matches, in Visakhapatnam, and they even "ticked off a loss in a rain-hit match" at Eden Gardens, as Dhoni wryly pointed out. Such tragicomic instances summed up their season.

Supergiants lost all their four games in Pune, but their second home - Visakhapatnam - saw an upturn in fortunes. Supergiants began with a four-run defeat against Sunrisers Hyderabad, but followed it up with back-to-back victories for the first time in the tournament. Overall, they won five, including the double against Delhi Daredevils, and lost nine - five of them in the last over.

Highlights

Australia legspinner Adam Zampa finished as the team's leading wicket-taker with 12 scalps, despite playing only five matches. His 6 for 19 - the second-best figures in all editions of the IPL - against Sunrisers was just reward for flight, dip and turn. That he controls and uses the wrong'un sparingly holds him in good stead. His average - 9.58 - was the best by any specialist bowler in IPL 2016.

Dhoni was Superman behind the stumps. If his between-the-legs stop had set the bar high, the karate kick raised it. He stuck his right leg out at a right angle to extend his reach and intercept late cuts from Manan Vohra and Virat Kohli. To do that in a split second was special.

Disappointments

With the bat, though, Dhoni was Clark Kent, or probably more ordinary, before that final dash against Kings XI. He struggled for timing and the helicopter-shot never made an appearance. His struggles were best exemplified by the 22-ball 8 against Kolkata Knight Riders; his strike rate of 36.36 was the lowest by a batsman who faced more than 20 balls in an IPL innings. Before Saturday, Dhoni had 220 runs in 11 innings at a strike rate of 123.59, the third lowest for a batsman between Nos. 4 and 6. Only Ravindra Jadeja (100.92) and David Miller (119.82) had fared worse.

R Ashwin was given his full quota in Supergiants' last match and claimed his best IPL figures of 4 for 34. But overall, the offspinner lacked bite and took 10 wickets in 14 matches at an average and economy rate of 31.90 and 7.25. He completed his quota in only eight of the 14 games. The Ashwin-Dhoni chicken v egg dilemma continues.

Key stats

  • Supergiants' economy rate in the Powerplay - 8.14 - was the second highest after Royal Challengers Bangalore's 8.27.

  • Dhoni lost four successive matches as a captain for the first time in the IPL, after Supergiants went down to Gujarat Lions, Kings XI, Royal Challengers and Knight Riders in April.

  • Ajinkya Rahane played out 140 dots - the fewest by a batsman to have faced 350-400 balls this season. Rahane ended with 480 off 379 balls, including six half-centuries.

Best win

After Dhoni's vintage, unbeaten 64 off 32 balls in the dead rubber against Kings XI, coach Fleming said: "I think Dhoni is pretty remarkable, which probably covered up the performances that were below par". It was Supergiants' most memorable game in the tournament. Dhoni flatly turned down singles and twos, and did it all by himself, smashing 23 off the last over to pull off a heist.

Worst defeat

Benefitting from a flurry of fielding lapses, Supergiants raced to 91 for 1 in nine overs against Mumbai Indians in Pune. They lost two wickets and eked out 16 in the next four overs and ended up with 159. Mumbai strolled home with Rohit Sharma making an unbeaten 85 off 60 balls. The middle and end overs with the bat, and then the defence highlighted the limitations in the Supergiants team.

What they need to do next season

They need their players to be fit and their key men - Dhoni and Ashwin - to fire consistently like they did for Chennai Super Kings. The combination of RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma simply isn't good enough in T20s. Supergiants must look to build their attack around Zampa and Ashok Dinda, who had a combined tally of 23 wickets.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Venkat on May 24, 2016, 6:18 GMT

    The poor performance of RPS is mainly due to a below average bowling line up and Dhoni's poor handling of the bowlers . Zampa should have been in the team right from the start in place of Albie or Perera . M.Ashwin could have been replaced by a local batsman . Ishwar Pandey could have been tried at least in a few matches . RPS lost one match in the last ball , lost one match by 4 runs , and two games in 19.3 overs. All these matches could have been won by RPS and the Points table would have been very differant . In most of the matches , MSD looked totally disinterested and his batting was very very ordinary .

  • ashok on May 24, 2016, 0:38 GMT

    Well, You divided the team into Lions and Giants and ask them to win against other team ? how unjustifiable is that ? Teams like Sunrisers and Kolkatta are in the top 4 because of an injury stricken team. If the same pool of players are available for 1 CSK then I am sure that CSK would be No 1 in the table. No one watches IPL in Tamilnadu these days, because of a mistake of the BCCI.

  • Debra on May 23, 2016, 23:09 GMT

    look, MSD was clear at the start that it was an 'Emotional moment not to see myself in yellow'. Clearly showed his priorities were yellow, and not the current team. Primary cause of failure. (and, did he miss Meiyappan and Srinivasan)

  • mukesh on May 23, 2016, 18:17 GMT

    What they said pre tournament ? New team with lots of talent but if at all there is one captain who can bring best out of new team is Dhoni . What happened mid season tournament ? lots and lots of injuries to all international players. Fans , writers clearly finding scapegoat called Injuries. Combination of RP Singh n Ishanth going for plenty. What happened end of Season? Amazing turn around by Dhoni in one of his best performances for franchises scoring 23 from last over. Which everyone hoped would digest all before performances.

    Reality :- Individual Success of Rahane, Steve Smith , Zampa couldn't make this team fly high. Ashwin vs Dhoni drama bigger than team. Dhoni slowing down while batting one time too many that audience had to take note of . Tiwari being sent out to bat with Rahane most of the time slowing entire flow of Innings. Rahane though being consistent was almost found wanting after 14 overs to up the ante. Ash trying to spin wet ball which he was not allowed to :)

  • Thomas on May 23, 2016, 14:02 GMT

    It is true RPS had good batting unit but they were more or less same kind of players. Rahane, KP, Tiwari, Faf had the same style of batting. Missing Faf, Smith and Marsh reflects quality in their fielding too. Ashwin's inability to take too many wickets this season was one of the biggest factors of RPS. There was no batsman who performed Kohli or ABD or even Krunal level of performance in RPS.

    It is good to see better teams making playoffs after all watching exciting matches with good performance is everyone's forte

  •   Cricinfouser on May 23, 2016, 13:38 GMT

    "Ajinkya Rahane played out 140 dots - the fewest by a batsman to have faced 350-400 balls this season. Rahane ended with 480 off 379 balls, including six half-centuries."

  • M.Valluva on May 23, 2016, 13:16 GMT

    In IPL 2016, GL' openers and all rounders, RCB hard hitting opening and middle orders, SRH' pace bowling, KKR spinners, Amazing talents. All rounders Russel, watson, Brovo always good performers. DD's domestic new talents worth watching. Dhoni failed to use his all-rounders; Irfan and Bhatia well. He should rely on R.Aswin. Bowlers must bowl to the weaknesses and body language of the batsmen. If they bowl for economy, wickets will come to their way. Above all Dhoni must promote himself up in the order. Then only he can return to his hard hitting thyme well. My playing 11 with avoilable squad are 1.Rahane 2.Kawajha 3.KP 4.Smith 5.Dhoni 6.Thesara 7.Irfan 8.Bhatia 9.R.Aswin 10.Zamba 11.Dinda.

  • Amindha on May 23, 2016, 13:14 GMT

    Well, his bowling at the start of the tournament was good.Faded towards the end.Batting wise he probably did what was expected of him.Quick cameos but no big scores, however he never scored at a slow pace so he didnt slow the RR. Overall a better than expected performance consudering his form for SL.His fielding was good as always though @dhawala05

  • Dhawala on May 23, 2016, 12:56 GMT

    No comment on Thisara perera what a shame for us as srilankans

  • ravi on May 23, 2016, 11:14 GMT

    I would blame it on poor selection by Dhoni. Why he kept Irfan out , till Pune was out of reckoning for the playoff's. In a way - that is confidence destroying for a player. Anyway - it is a new team, and it takes time to biuld a culture - unlike Gujarat where Raina's in general positive and extrovert attitude can become a center of gravity around which the team can gel.

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