Pune Warriors IPL 2013 preview April 3, 2013

Warriors hope it's third-time lucky

Big picture

Sunrisers may be the newest entrants to the IPL parivaar (family) but it would be Warriors who would be seen in a new avatar. Since their bottom-placed finish last year, a lot of water has flown under the bridge. When it came to running the team, it was a one-man army last year, with Sourav Ganguly acting as a captain-mentor.

Come 2013, and Ganguly is nowhere in the picture. Instead, it's Allan Donald who has been elevated from a bowling coach to the head coach. And for the third time during their third year in IPL, Warriors have appointed a new captain at the start of the season. Beyond the captain and the navigator of the ship lie the real changes. There are more than a dozen changes to the squad that represented Warriors last year.

Those who attended Donald's half-hour interaction with the press would realise that their homework has been near- perfect. Warriors made far too many changes to their line-up last year. As a result, only one player - Robin Uthappa - featured in each of their 16 games, while a whopping 23 players got at least a game. As a result, the team combination was far from settled throughout the season.

This time around, though, Donald and Co have decided to downsize the squad for every game from 33 to 16, if not 15. And the thrust during the build-up hasn't just been on adding match-winning overseas cricketers. As a result, domestic stars like Abhishek Nayar, Ishwar Pandey, T Suman and Parvez Rasool, who became the first player from Jammu & Kashmir to have been signed by an IPL franchise after impressive domestic season, have indeed made Warriors a formidable outfit at least on paper.

The coming weeks will tell us whether the line-up that looks as impressive as any other on paper delivers the goods on the field.

Key Players

He was the captain and the marquee player during their inaugural season and was forced to watch Warriors from the sidelines during IPL 2012. Warriors will be looking forward to Yuvraj Singh marking his return to IPL in style. Despite being the star of India's triumphant world titles in both the shorter versions of the game, Yuvraj hasn't really lived up to his potential in the IPL so far. Warriors would be hoping that the next two months help Yuvraj change that.

Once it was decided that Yuvraj won't be considered for captaincy and Michael Clarke pulled out due to the recurrence of his back injury, Angelo Mathews emerged as the leading candidate to skipper the side. Mathews is already a vital cog in terms of the balance of the team, and his elevation has increased the responsibility on him further. Mathews would be hoping to draw all the experience he has gained from leading Sri Lanka in Tests and ODIs recently.

Big names in

The signing of Ross Taylor from Delhi Daredevils can help Warriors fill the gap of the floater they missed all through the last season. Taylor will be desperate to feel at home with what will be his fourth IPL team. And if the track for their home games is as slow and low as it was during the last year, Ajantha Mendis can be a handful with his not-so-mysterious-anymore spin bowling. Mind you, Mendis may be a familiar proposition for regulars at the international stage, but he can be destructive against the domestic batsmen.

Big names out

Michael Clarke's unavailability for the entire duration of the tournament is a big blow for Warriors. Though Clarke isn't exactly renowned for his Twenty20 skills, he is widely regarded as one of the most enterprising captains in the world cricket. It is his leadership ability that Warriors will sorely miss.

Availability

Ross Taylor is likely to miss the latter half of the tournament due to New Zealand's tour to England. And Tamim Iqbal, who injured himself during an ODI in Sri Lanka last week, is unlikely to be available for at least the first half of the tournament due to Bangladesh's tour of Zimbabwe.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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