Levi, Kevin O'Brien on Pune radar
A wicketkeeper, a middle-order batsman and an allrounder top the buying list of the Pune Warriors, who have started knocking on the doors of rival franchises to explore any possible trading opportunities. At the moment the Warriors have to fill three slots for international players having released Australia wicketkeeper Tim Paine (injured) and bought out West Indies fast bowler Jerome Taylor's contract. But they have only a week left before the trading window - opened specially for them in the aftermath of the truce signed by the BCCI and Sahara, who own the franchise - ends on February 29.
It is understood that names such as young South Africa batsman Richard Levi and Ireland allrounder Kevin O'Brien are among the players the Warriors might consider. Levi catapulted himself into contention after he blasted the fastest T20I hundred against New Zealand on February 19. As for O'Brien, who went unsold in the IPL's supplementary auction on February 4, insiders reveal he could still be a prospect.
Tim Southee, the New Zealand fast bowler, who played last year as a replacement player for the Chennai Super Kings, could get a look-in, too, especially if Allan Donald, the Warriors' bowling coach, backs him. Donald spent a few months as bowling consultant with New Zealand till the World Cup last year and was impressed by Southee's aggression.
The Warriors also require a wicketkeeper. Robin Uthappa did the job for them in IPL 2011 with Paine playing only two matches, one of them as a specialist batsman.
Sourav Ganguly, the Warriors' mentor and a favourite to take over the leadership reins in the absence of Yuvraj Singh, is expected to take the final call on the shortlist of players when he meets the franchise officials later this week.
With a purse of $3.4 million available to them, the Warriors have no shortage of funds. If anything there are no big international players left in the market who would be available for the entire IPL season, which starts on April 4 and ends on May 27.
According to a BCCI official, the Warriors could face competition from some other franchises who are on the lookout for temporary replacements. "Mumbai Indians might look for a replacement for Andrew Symonds, who retired recently," the board official said. "It is not going to be easy for Warriors. It is not like they want someone so [they] go get him."
Meanwhile Sahara have sent a letter to the owners of the other franchises, asking them to consider their request of fielding five foreign players this season to offset the absence of Yuvraj. The BCCI had originally refused to entertain the Warriors' request, but after negotiations, allowed Sahara to seek "consent" from the other eight franchises on the issue. Most franchises ESPNcricinfo spoke to recently were not in favour of such a move.
Their stand has still not changed. "If it is five for them, then it should be five for everybody. I have spoken to five to six other franchises and they are of the same opinion," a franchise official said.
The Warriors officials have conceded that it would be hard to get a consensus among the remaining eight franchises. But the Warriors have decided to stay positive and are also interested in some players from other teams. They would be writing to the IPL to express their interest. The IPL would then contact the concerned franchises and get back to the Warriors.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo