IPL 6: Team Preview: Pune Warriors India
The excitement is quite palpable, and why not – it is the Indian Premier League! For a diehard fan like me, it is a source of relief. To be assured of a cricket match every evening, a chance to behold our stars in action day after day, and the thrill and the ‘edge-of-the-seat’ moments are just a daily chore for the next two months. It consumes us to the point that by the time the IPL is over, we are sure to feel its void. The on-field camaraderie between the stars of various nations and the fighting qualities that the team exhibits make it all the more appealing.
The Pune Warriors India:
One of the costliest teams as far as club cricket is concerned and yet they have not managed to set the stage on fire. Having been bought for a whopping 370 million dollars by the Sahara Adventure Sports Limited, the establishment that sponsors the BCCI, PWI has rather been pathetic in its previous ventures. After a dismal season in 2011, a change in captaincy for the next season owing to the incumbent skipper’s untimely illness did not have any effect on their fortunes as they failed to make an impact.
The Subrata Roy stadium, Pune:
The stadium which was previously known as the MCA cricket stadium was rebuilt to match the state of the art infrastructure. It hosted it first IPL match on 8th April 2012 between the Pune Warriors India and Kings XI Punjab. A T20 international match was played between India and England on the 20th of December, 2012 which is the lone international fixture on this venue after its revamp. It has a seating capacity of 55,000.
The fortunes (2011 and 2012)
The Pune Warriors debuted in the IPL with a fancy squad that had Yuvraj Singh as its icon player. Having been termed as the costliest franchise and with a mix of talented players, Pune Warriors India were touted to compete successfully against the top teams. But what unfolded was an eyesore for its fan as it stumbled to make a mark. They finished at the 9th position and the players who were backed to make an impression, came a cropper.
Yuvraj Singh was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2011 and Sourav Ganguly was handed the reins for the 2012 season, hoping that he would be able to replicate his success that he enjoyed while he was heading the Indian contingent. But the team stooped to the bottom as they held the wooden spoon at the end of the season. Ganguly received the flak for his lacklustre leadership skills and the batting that refused to take off.
Having purchased a couple of good players at this year’s auctions and with the return of the dangerous Yuvraj Singh, things are looking up for Pune. After Dada’s retirement and Clarke’s ouster from the IPL due to injury, Angelo Mathews has been named the captain of the side ahead of Yuvraj Singh. Whether a new skipper can bring about new fortunes is a question that only time can answer.
The key players
Back from a life-threatening illness, Yuvraj would be raring to prove that his form of old has not deserted him yet. Having been unceremoniously dropped from the Indian Test side, he has a point or two to prove to his critics. His explosive form was already exhibited in the T20s against England and Pakistan last year and knowing Yuvraj, he would probably have more sixes up his sleeve.
The smart right-hander from West Indies is a complete player who can shift gears at will. His exploits in the finals of the 2012 T20 World Cup are well publicized for the kind of impact it had on the match. He is a shrewd thinker of the game and a great presence in the outfield. His presence would boost the fortunes of Pune and he can roll his arm over as well.
The first ever Indian to score a century in the IPL, Pandey’s career has failed to take off after that. His rifts with the board did not help as well. But he has put all that behind him as he eagerly awaits the season to prove that his exploits in the second season were more than luck. A successful season here would open the door to the Indian team in the shorter formats, a thought that he would surely remember before he dons his black jersey.
The team combination
They have a good mix as far as foreign power is concerned. They have secured the services of Luke Wright, a player who can be devastating on his day. He is a utility player as well which adds stability and depth to the side.
The presence of all-rounders in Wayne Parnell, Luke Wright, Marlon Samuels, Abhishek Nayar and Mitchell Marsh augurs well for the bowling department, not to mention the presence of Angelo Mathews, Yuvraj Singh and Steven Smith who are practically game changers on their day.
The Indian duo of Robin Uthappa and Abhishek Nayar add more depth to the batting and their utility as a wicketkeeper and a seamer respectively would come in handy.
The coming of age of Bhuvneshwar Kumar would strengthen their fast bowling unit and Ashok Dinda is a master class bowler when it comes to being economical.
The spin department would be taken care of by the trio of Ajantha Mendis, Rahul Sharma and Ali Murtaza. Mendis is a wily customer and he would prove handy in any sort of conditions. Rahul Sharma had a mediocre season last year and would like to put all that behind him as he strives to get his place in the Indian team back. Murtaza is a clever bowler who could chip in with a wicket or two at crucial junctures. It is a heady combination that could prove to be the surprise package as far as their bowling is concerned.
The coaching staff:
The coaching staff is experienced enough to guide the team in the right direction and securing Ganguly as an expert advisor is a master stroke. Allan Donald is another person the bowlers can look up to for guidance.
The team appears well balanced on paper and the way they perform is going to be the difference between themselves and the others. They would have to pull up their socks and start performing. They are surely the dark horses in this edition. Underestimate them at your own peril!
My playing XI: Robin Uthappa (wk), Manish Pandey, Abhishek Nayar, Yuvraj Singh, Marlon Samuels, Angelo Matthews (C), Steven Smith, Ajantha Mendis, Rahul Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda.
Note: I have left out Mitchell Marsh, Wayne Parnell and Luke Wright based on the subcontinent conditions. The team looks well balanced on paper and having these players on the bench adds more strength to the team. They are truly in the competition this season and it would be a treat watching them, especially Yuvraj Singh in action!
The squad: Abhishek Nayar, Ajantha Mendis, Ali Murtaza, Angelo Mathews, Anustup Majumdar, Ashoke Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dheeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Harpreet Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Kane Richardson, Krishnakant Upadhyay, Luke Wright, Mahesh Rawat, Manish Pandey, Marlon Samuels, Mitchell Marsh, Mithun Manhas, Parveez Rasool, Rahul Sharma, Raiphi Gomez, Robin Uthappa (Wk), Ross Taylor, Shrikant Wagh, Steve Smith, Tirumalasetti Suman, Tamim Iqbal, Udit Birla, Yuvraj Singh and Wayne Parnell