Pune Warriors 2013 review May 20, 2013

A hat-trick of shambolic seasons for Warriors

For the third year in a row, Warriors were nowhere in the running for a place in the playoffs

Where they finished
Even in their third season in the IPL, Pune Warriors - the most expensive team - showed no signs of having got their act together. After finishing second from bottom in their maiden season and at the bottom of the table in 2012, Warriors started the season thinking things could only better. And they appeared to have got the resources right this year with one of the strongest squads on paper at the start of the season.

Just before the season began, though, they received a jolt as Michael Clarke, who was set to lead their campaign, pulled out due to a back problem and Warriors could never recover from that. They employed three captains, tried 26 players in 16 games and yet won only four games.

Had it not been for their successive victories in their last two games, they would have finished the season at the bottom of the table. For most of the season, Warriors were jokingly called the most consistent team in the IPL, as they were set to finish a lowly ninth for the third year in a row. They didn't maintain that record, though, finishing ahead of Delhi Daredevils after beating them in the battle to avoid the final spot.

What went right
In a season where hardly anything went right for them, only three players showed some sort of consistency. Aaron Finch, who came in as Clarke's replacement and ended up leading the side for most of the season, and Robin Uthappa helped the team get off to solid starts. Both Finch and Uthappa finished in the bottom half of the top-10 run-getters in the IPL. And Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the pick of the bowlers, mixing accuracy with his typical early movement to finish with a superb economy-rate of 6.50.

What went wrong
Everything. Well, almost everything. Ashok Dinda's death bowling became something of a joke, and the middle-order batsmen were miserable than even Daredevils'. If two captains in the second season wasn't enough to unsettle the team, three captains this season made it even worse.

The root of all these problems lay in the fact that the team could never get their right balance. Head coach Allan Donald had said before the start of the tournament that, unlike last season where they had to chop and change the team combination constantly, they were looking at creating a core group and sticking by them through the tournament. It wasn't something they were able to achieve.

Best player
It's a close call between Aaron Finch and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. But one would be inclined to pick Finch, first for agreeing to lead a sinking ship and then keeping his chin up despite the team's losing spree for much of his stint as captain. More importantly, he continued his form with the bat even after taking charge of the team.

Poor performer
Another close call. Dinda had a torrid time, while Yuvraj Singh and Abhishek Nayar had seasons to forget as well. Yuvraj, the man who was supposed to lead the Warriors' batting charge, failed miserably, scoring just 238 runs from 13 innings, with highest of 34. Nayar, the most sought-after Indian in the auction ahead of the season on the back of a sensational Ranji season, managed just 66 from nine innings at less than a run a ball. What tempered a bad season a bit for Yuvraj was his contribution with the ball, even though he didn't bowl regularly. And Nayar's lack of opportunities would help him avoid the tag of being the worst of the lot. As for Dinda, the less said the better.

Surprise package
There was no debutant who shone for Warriors. But Finch could fit the bill. After going unsold at the IPL auction, he was belatedly signed on as Clarke's replacement, and he ended up as the stand-out performer for the franchise.

Moment to remember
Unfortunately, the most memorable moment for Warriors was when they suffered at the hands of Chris Gayle who piled on unbeaten 175 - the highest individual score in T20s - and helped Royal Challengers Bangalore register the highest ever T20 score against a hapless Warriors attack.

On a positive note, their moment of glory came when they beat Chennai Super Kings in Chennai on April 15. So what if it was followed by a run of seven successive wins for CSK and nine losses on the trot for Warriors. Beating the most successful team in IPL history is always an achievement.

Recommended for retention
When the campaign has been a shambles three seasons in a row, it is time for a complete overhaul.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo