Pune on the edge of the precipice
Match factsWednesday, May 4, Navi Mumbai
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
Time is running out for Pune Warriors. Sourav Ganguly's rise from the ashes with his inclusion in their squad - he won no bids at the IPL auctions - is one that'll keep them in the news in the days to come but their on-field performances have left them fast fading out of the list of contenders for the play-offs.
What they need to achieve to stay alive is a complete turnaround, and anything short of winning their remaining six games will push them closer to the exit door. They tried to address their concerns with the bat by tweaking their order against Rajasthan Royals in their previous game: Robin Uthappa came at No. 3, rightly so, and looked good before playing one reverse-sweep too many and Manish Pandey opened but was kept quiet by some tight bowling. While the ploy seemed fine, the execution faltered. They were also sloppy on the field, dropping three catches, something they can ill afford again with their qualifying prospects diminishing.
Mumbai Indians put behind their debacle against Rajasthan to win comprehensively against Kings XI Punjab. They look well on course for a place in the play-offs with their batting back on track, and what better chance to take a step closer than play a deflated Pune.
Form guide (most recent first)Pune Warriors: LLLLL
(bottom of the points table)
Mumbai Indians: WLWWW
(Second on the points table)
Ganguly is likely to join the Pune squad ahead of tomorrow's game but may not play. He'll take over as vice-captain as some point in the rest of their campaign, but for the game against Mumbai, Pune can do with an additional batsman. They could consider giving Callum Ferguson a go ahead of Nathan McCullum.
Davy Jacobs is uncertain, having sustained a minor fracture on his left hand. That gives them the option of going in with explosive opener Aiden Blizzard to partner Sachin Tendulkar.
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In the spotlight
Sourav Ganguly: One wonders what Ganguly's been doing in the recent past to keep himself match fit, with stints in the commentary box and the experts' studio for the World Cup gone by. Younger players speak of feeding off the experience of seniors, and how their presence in the dressing room or the dugout can be a motivating factor even though they may not play. If his leadership or influence can at the very least spark an inspirational performance or two from a dispirited team, his late inclusion will have served some purpose this year.
Kieron Pollard: He's hardly done anything this season because the top order's been performing so well. Nevertheless, he managed a quick 20 and smashed two sixes, his best returns this time around, and is beginning to warm up for bigger challenges to come, albeit a little belatedly.
- Lasith Malinga has grabbed 52 wickets overall in the IPL and is fourth in the list. However, his wickets have come in 34 games while those ahead of him have taken a far longer time. Irfan Pathan has played 51 games, Shane Warne 50, Pragyan Ojha 49 and RP Singh - the table leader with 57 wickets - 51.
- Rohit Sharma has taken 26 catches overall in the IPL and is two away from going past Suresh Raina, who tops the list.
"Now we are in such a situation where another loss would mean that we are out of the competition. Not a great feeling."
Yuvraj Singh sums it up
Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo