They started the season with the tag of “Underdogs”, but they went on to prove the label untrue. When the day that Pune Warriors India were to face the Mumbai Indians came around, most people were sure that MI was in for an easy win. The only factor that worked in favor of PWI was the very nature of the T20 format – the unpredictability. But PWI showed that it wasn’t just the unpredictability, but the natural talent that was honed by a hardworking behind-the-scenes team and aided by the motivation to win that gave them the victory over MI.
But why were PWI considered underdogs? The answer would be their previous (debut) season. They started off with a bang then too, but could not gain the required momentum and soon, lost too many games, their position becoming one that even the last few victories could not change. So when they faced MI, everyone naturally thought that a team of talented but haphazardly placed individuals did not stand much of a chance. But they proved the cynics wrong and some faith was garnered. Then they won their second match against KXIP, and expectations rose. Maybe this team was different from the one last year. Maybe the change in captaincy was working for them. Maybe now they would be the team they could be instead of the amalgamation of talented players that they’d been.
When they lost their third match, some doubts returned. Was history going to repeat itself? Was PWI going to win a few matches only to proceed to losing many more? But their subsequent victory against CSK came as a breather – they were not going to repeat history. They were here to stay.
The scenario however, saw itself taking a drastic u-turn when they began to lose one match after another. A win over the Delhi Daredevils was a brief moment of relief for their avid supporters, but that has been forgotten in the string of losses they’ve had since.
What exactly happened? No one can really say, although some changes became extremely evident. The drive, the motivation and the hunger that each team displayed was somehow missing from the Warriors. The team disintegrated into individual players who play more for themselves than the team. Whether it’s Robin Uthappa’s consistently dismal performance or Ashish Nehra’s sudden desire to give away runs instead of curtailing them, the behaviour displayed the lack of understanding of the basic concept – it’s a T20; the idea is to be aggressive.
There do remain some players that show promise, players that will be the reason PWI may not finish at the bottom of the points table. Steve Smith is one such player. He has become a favorite with the team’s supporters. Given his batting that has saved them on many an occasion and his fielding which often borders on amazing, it’s no surprise that he is looked at as a player that can create a stir, match after match.
What differentiates Smith from his colleagues is the obvious drive. He plays every match like a final, with his heart and soul. But the others are far from doing the same. And even if PWI goes on to win all its remaining matches, it does not stand much chance of being in the play-offs.
Surprisingly enough, the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium, Pune’s home ground, continues to be filled to the brim with screaming supporters. Whether the spectators are at the stadium because they continue to believe in their team or whether they come to watch the match only as a result of non-refundable tickets bought in advance is unclear. The only thing clear is that if PWI want to prove themselves better than the disappointment people see them as, their only chance is the IPL 2013.