Controversies had been the part and parcel of IPL and this time the flame was ignited by Pune Warriors. Owned by the main sponsors of Team India and BCCI, the Sahara group, the issue erupted over the non acceptance of the demand of Pune franchisee for adding the price of the original skipper Yuvraj who is battling cancer right now. They timed the withdrawal so well that took the heat off the IPL auction. The issue was sorted out later but in the process Pune lost the very good opportunity to add to their strength by missing the auction. At this juncture team building has been hampered.
In the absence of regular skipper, Pune will be led by India’s successful captain Ganguly. There is no question on the leadership qualities of Ganguly. The present generation of Indian seniors owe their development to Ganguly. However at 40 years and three year gap since missing high profile cricket, Ganguly’s ability to inspire the side will be among the most interesting aspects of IPL 2012. He will be needed to prove his presence with his batting failing which the side can be under pressure. The choice of skipper by the franchisee could be a major factor for Pune.
Batting is led by Ganguly. His compatriots include the South African skipper Greame Smith. Smith must take the lead to give fiery starts to the side. Other foreign recruits include Callum Fergusson, a promising Australian and West Indies’ Samuels. Samuels will be expected to lead the middle order. Indian contingent includes the T20 sensation Uthappa, IPL’s first Indian centurion Manish Pandey. Both of them have to take the responsibility of the side’s batting given their experience in T20s. Others include talented Monish Mishra and Dhiraj Jadhav, two men with laudable domestic records. Khadiwale adds local Marathi flavour to the side.
Allrounders of the side boasts of the extremely useful Lankan Angelo Matheews. His role is likely to be that of the finisher. Others are James Hopes and Steven Smith from Australia. Former Kochi player Gomez adds to the depth. Parnell and Luke Wright can also bat and bowl. Parnell especially has been in excellent form opening the batting and bowling his quota for South Africa. Uthappa is the first choice keeper backed up by Ekalavya Diwedi. Here a regular keeper could have done a world of good for the side.
Spin is led by India’s latest spin sensation Rahul Sharma. He was the only positive point for Pune last season and his entry into the Indian team owes it to the IPL 2011 by all means. Experienced Murali Karthik will spearhead the spin attack that includes Steven Smith and newbie Majumdar. The good aspect is that Karthik and Sharma can both check the flow of runs.
Pune has a strong pace attack. Deposed Indian seamer Nehra will spearhead the attack with South Africa’s Alonso Thomas. Both are experienced a lot to react to the need of the hour. Nehra will be itching to prove his utility given that he has been dropped from Indian team despite being the best bowler in the lead up to the World Cup. Ashok Dinda is the latest addition and given the form that he is in, Pune is going to be pleased. Wagh proved his ability last season and Bhuvanesh Kumar will prove useful. Shane Warne’s find Kamran Khan provides variety with his slinging action. Parnell himself is a successful pacer.
Finally the side’s performance will depend on the amicability that prevails in the squad. The management has been reluctant to own the side and Coaches are not in best mood. Ganguly’s captaincy will be keenly followed and the side’s progress may depend on whether he can inspire the side as much as he did a decade back. For that he initially must prove his worth in the playing XI with his bat. The side will miss Yuvraj Singh sorely but then not just Pune but every cricketer and fan would be praying for his speedy recovery. The man is too precious to be lost from Cricket. With not so spectacular Indian group, Pune will have to strive hard to enter the semis. All in All, the side’s performance will be based on “Ganguly”.
Best XI: Greame Smith, Manish Pandey, Saurav Ganguly, Marlon Samuels, Angelo Matheews , Robin Uthappa, Wayne Parnell, Murali Karthik, Rahul Sharma, Ashok Dinda and Ashish Nehra.