x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Indian Premier League: No longer the new kids but Pune Warriors still learning lessons

With the Sunrisers Hyderabad joining the league the Pune Warriors are no longer the youngest franchise, but the team is still crawling, not running, in the IPL. Osman Samiuddin reports.

Robin Uthappa, above, led the Pune Warriors in 2012 with 669 runs. The team acquired Michael Clarke in the off-season.
Robin Uthappa, above, led the Pune Warriors in 2012 with 669 runs. The team acquired Michael Clarke in the off-season.
Until the Sunrisers Hyderabad came into existence for this season, Pune Warriors were the Indian Premier League's baby franchise. Formed in 2010, after the league decided on an expansion, the franchise is the most expensive in the history of the league.
The Sahara Group - which has long been a major sponsor of the Indian team - paid US$370 million (Dh1.36bn) for the franchise rights.
However, trouble and uncertainty have been common on and off the field. Hours before the 2012 auction, for example, Sahara, which had bid unsuccessfully for a franchise in 2008, ended its ties with the Indian team as well as ownership of the franchise.
Less than two weeks later they made up with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, but the problems captured some of the IPL's ongoing structural instability.
 
Prospects
Not great given their performances in their first two seasons.
They have punched gently in the auctions and their captain last season, Sourav Ganguly, has never been a great Twenty20 player and had a particularly miserable 2012: he averaged 17.86 at a strike-rate of 98.89 with all but three innings at one down or above.
The return of Yuvraj Singh will add some much-needed impetus to the squad, but the purchase of Michael Clarke, a reluctant Twenty20 beast, perhaps sums up where PW are at.
 
Star foreign signing
It happened quickly, but after Ajantha Mendis's initial head-spinning breakthrough in international cricket in 2008, the Sri Lankan has slipped back into the more staid role of Twenty20 specialist. The mystery has gone in Tests and though he is still handy, in certain conditions, in one-day internationals, it is the shortest format that remains ideal for his zipping, little-turning unorthodoxy. When you need to go after him is when he remains at his most dangerous.
He has not come cheap, at $725,000, which will only heighten the pressure on him to make an instant impact. He is capable of it if the circumstances are right.
 
Star Indian player
It has been a crazy tough few years for Yuvraj and that he is back and available to play this season is remarkable and heartening. But so poor have the franchise been that they will need some of his goodwill and charisma, as well as nose for the big occasion, to rub off on them.
This is the format that suits him best now, and he has been a particularly useful bowler in subcontinent conditions since he returned. But it is his six-hitting abilities the franchise will lean on heaviest, because once he gets going, he is still very difficult to stop.
 
Previous history
In a word: miserable. Pune have the lowest win percentage (26.7) of any team in the IPL by a vast distance. Just eight wins in two seasons from 30 games means that even the defunct Deccan Chargers (38.7 per cent) are far ahead of them. And Chargers won the title once.
In 2012, Pune set an IPL record by losing nine games in succession; in their first season, in 2011, they lost seven in a row.
 
Home ground: Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium, Pune
The fruits of the IPL, the stadium in Pune started life as an Indian venue at the IPL 2012, hosting its first match for the home side against the Kings XI Punjab. The 55,000-capacity stadium is of modern architecture, completed in three years and it hosted its first international match - a T20 between India and England - last December.
 
The fixtures
April 5 v Sunrisers Hyderabad (Away)
April 7 v Kings XI Punjab (Home)
April 11 v Rajasthan Royals (H)
April 13 v Mumbai Warriors (A)
April 15 v Chennai Super Kings (A)
April 17 v Sunrisers Hyderabad (H)
April 21 v Kings XI Punjab (A)
April 23 v Royal Challengers Bangalore (A)
April 28 v Delhi Daredevils (A)
April 30 v Chennai Super Kings (H)
May 2 v Royal Challengers Bangalore (H)
May 5 v Rajasthan Royals (A)
May 9 v Kolkata Knight Riders (H)
May 11 v Mumbai Indians (H)
May 14 v Kolkata Knight Riders (A)
May 18 v Delhi Daredevils (H)
 
osamiuddin@thenational.ae
 
twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE