Let's hope Pune Warriors' good start isn't a false dawn
With a great fan following, the Sourav Ganguly-led players will find it hard to not turn up and deliver the goods on match-days.
The blue brigade has well and truly arrived. Except this time around, it’s not any of the IPL big wigs that are beaming in joy. Pune Warriors India, on the back of two solid performances on field, find themselves sitting pretty at the top of the league with Rajasthan Royals, with each team on two wins out of two, one week into IPL 5.
For players like Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, who were basically shunned by the IPL in earlier years, it must be a pleasing position to be in. The transition from bottom-seed to top-seed seems to have begun, and although there’s still a long way to go, the start seems to have been bright. With at least fourteen games remaining for each of the teams, it would be foolish to predict the top four just now, but Pune have definitely taken the right strides towards their stated goal.
The start was scratchy, with the batting not quite living up to expectations on the slow, turning Wankhede surface. But Pune had a point to prove – that they weren’t pushovers – and the skipper found himself in a familiar role of having to fight for a win with a less than potent bowling attack. Off went the pads and gloves, and on came the thinking cap – the one he’d adorned an umpteen number of times as an India player. Surprise moves, like opening the bowling with Murali Karthik and a first slip, and a shrewd rotation of the limited bowling resources available to him ensured that Pune weren't embarrassed at the den of their neighbors. What resulted was a shock 'upset' of sorts, with rival skipper Harbhajan Singh left with more than his usual share of worries.
Their second match saw the inauguration of Pune’s home venue, with Bollywood stars turning up in hordes and pretty much turning the IPL into the “Bollywood Premier League”. The who’s who of the cricketing world and the film industry mingled, and the stadium was decked out in an amazing amalgamation of colors and lights. With most ex-Indian cricketers billing the stadium to be one of the best in the world, it was time to put on a show worthy of an inaugural game. This time around, Pune’s batters tried their level best to notch up a score that would be more competitive and give their bowlers something to play with. At the end of 40 overs, they emerged the dominant team once again and stamped their authority over a hapless Punjab.
The third game didn't exactly go to plan. They didn't put up enough runs and then Kings XI Punjab cruised to an easy win on the back of Shaun Marsh's classy knock.
In all three games, one felt that the common denominator was the fan following behind the team. Granted, a large faction of the fans were delirious, die-hard fans of the celebrated, beleaguered and born (yet) again skipper, but to discount the contribution of the others would only be foolish. Pune’s dedicated fans ended up creating a huge wall of blue at the newly opened stadium. In fact, beautiful shots of the picturesque stadium teeming with blue jersey-clad guys and girls were a hallmark of the telecast on the day. With a fan following like that, players will find it hard to not turn up and deliver the goods on match-days.
From here on in, things are only going to get more and more interesting. Fans will clearly remember the hammering they received in the 2011 edition and will be praying the first two games have not been a 'false dawn.'
Pune need to keep their momentum going, and getting the playing XI right each time (16 times in a row) will be the big differentiator. In the hands of Sourav, they’ve found an able leader, who’s been there and done that. But complacency will be rearing its ugly head only a few steps away, and that’ll be Pune’s next big hurdle. If they’re able to sidestep that, as well as the demons within, they might just end up pulling off one of the greatest heists in IPL history.
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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