The 'care factor' will be key for Pune - Donald
Despite being around for two years in the Indian Premier League, Pune Warriors - the most expensive franchise in the event - seem to be struggling to find their feet. In both the editions they have featured in, they have finished near or at the bottom.
No wonder then that their third successive season will see a new captain and coach going into the tournament. While both their previous coaches - Geoff Marsh in 2011 and Sourav Ganguly as captain-cum-mentor last year, when they participated without a head coach - were diplomatic ahead of they stints, Allan Donald, who has been elevated from bowling coach to head coach this year, spelled out his expectations from the players in no uncertain terms.
Referring to his new role as "intimidating" in a tournament that moves "at a million miles per hour", Donald, the former South Africa pace spearhead, urged the players to "care" for one another.
"I am going to have a meeting with our overseas players on their own to explain their commitment to our cause for the next two months. Every one of those players wants to play. I would be disappointed if I wasn't picked. But what is important for Pune Warriors is for everyone to be swimming up one stream, [and] not every way and direction like it went last year," Donald said, referring to a disgruntled unit in the latter half of last year's IPL.
"And negativity spreads cancer. It does because it gets people talking, players talk among each other. And my message to the team is [to] be up front and honest. [This] is going to be the key. I am not here to make anyone promises.
"That's what this format requires. You just can't be pleasing cricketers for the sake of it. I just want guys to be part of the team and helping each other out. The care factor for me is huge. I want guys to look after each other. That creates that relaxed environment that I talk about. That's pretty much what I look for. How we gel as a team, how we grow as a team and how we care as a team is going to be the key for us."
In a season in which Pune Warriors tried out 23 players during the season, not many players were given a long rope. It led to team harmony going for a toss as the tournament progressed, and affected the team both on and off the field. Donald seems to have learned the lessons from the disappointing previous outing: "[I] don't think last year was a great example for me. That was my first year, and I felt that at times, we were a bit gung-ho with our selection.
"At times, [we tried] quick fixes, which didn't work. I see that the teams that have been successful in the IPL have stuck with a certain group of players for a long period of time. And that's what I intend to do.
"Why fix [something] if it's not broken? All coaches and teams are looking for early momentum and confidence, and we have to earn the right to do that first of all. The hard part about this competition is to get your nose in front. I am not looking far ahead. I am not looking at the semi-finals or anything like that. I just want to concentrate on every game, and on what we do in every game. If it doesn't work and we go down fighting, so be it. To try and stick to certain processes is the key."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo