Ganguly is older but still dangerous
And the former Indian skipper will have to use his captaincy skills to get the best out of the Pune Warriors.
By Abhigyan Banerjee
It's that time of the year again when flamboyance and glamour become the high points of an otherwise hot, sweaty Indian summer.
The IPL is upon us and season 5 promises to bring more of the high-octane and intensity-rich clashes, which became the hallmark of previous editions of the mega event. The cricketers are back in vogue, sharing (and even stealing) the limelight from prominent Bollywood stars. Cash will be thrown around with wild abandon and eyeballs would roll for every dot, single, four, or “DLF maximum” that comes the way of the spectators.
The Stadia will take up a new sheen, with families going bonkers supporting their teams, politicians and celebrities lining up for photo-ops, and cheerleaders doing their cheer drills. In a way, the IPL will give the common man respite from the political and socio-economic travails that’ve gripped the nation. The “Family Outing” adverts on TV may not be far off from the truth.
Among the teams, Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians will definitely start off as favorites, their fan following having attained new heights over the last year. Bottom-seeders Pune Warriors India will have a point or two to prove, led by an ageing skipper-cum-mentor, and handicapped by the absence of their marquee player, Yuvraj Singh.
They’d ideally want to portray an image of solidarity and back that up with solid performances on the field, and try to lessen the obvious, ominous impact of Yuvraj’s absence. Whether they wanted it or not, off-the-field controversies and the eventual showdown between the BCCI and team owners Sahara India Pariwar, have provided just the kind of momentum the PR junkies were salivating for. There’s also the small issue that one of their better batsmen - South African southpaw Graeme Smith, pulled out of the tournament because of injury. So there’s no doubt that all eyeballs would be on them when they first take the field in this IPL against Mumbai Indians on the sixth.
A quick look at the team under the Pune banner leads one to believe that they definitely have the firepower to pull through to the final four. What's required is application, and the spirit to met it out in the tough and mind-numbing, pressure-cooker situations that a T20 game usually features. They’re being led by an ageing (albeit incisive and experienced) skipper, who still has it in himself to pack a punch at the top of the order. He’ll probably be given company by Jesse Ryder, or Bangladeshi hot-shot Tamim Iqbal. Together, they’d be looking to provide the starts that are ‘oh-so-important’ in a T20 match.
Michael Clarke - a surprise purchase - will look to commandeer the inning along with Robbie Utthappa (who’ll also be donning the wicket keeper's gloves), in case the top order collapses or if Pune get into consolidation mode. Lower down, the likes of Steven Smith and Angelo Matthews will be entrusted for urgent, last-minute fireworks. Based on his recent histrionics in Australia alone, Angelo Matthews would be a default choice in the PWI lineup.
Pune runs into trouble with its bowling. While they have some familiar names in their camp, none of them is as consistent as the management would like them to be. Ashish Nehra can make you sigh in contentment and groan in despair in the space of three deliveries. Ashoke Dinda has not lived up to the hype around himself, and the only saving graces are the spinners Murali Karthik and Rahul Sharma. Together, their job would be to contain or even choke the batsmen. The lack of a world-class, international quick might also hamper them lots.
All in all, 2012 should turn out to be an interesting season for the Pune Warriors India. Last year was a display of big money spent over bad cricketing selections and a generally haphazard management of the team. This year, owner Subrata Roy would be hoping to turn the tables on the back of some stirring performances. Let the games begin!
About the author: Eccentric blogger with an affinity for most things cricket. When not digging into the latest blurbs from the cricket world, he can be seen idolising Sourav Ganguly, tinkering with technology, and generally goofing around with the Indian gentry around him.
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