Warriors look for revival at home
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Start time 1600 (1030 GMT)
In a long tournament such as the IPL, one would be wise not to draw large conclusions from some early signs teams might display in their first few games. Pune Warriors would know that well. Last year, they began brightly, winning their first two matches, including one at the superb new stadium on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway in front of a capacity home crowd. Things were looking up, but only temporarily, as Warriors' fortunes slid rapidly. They won just two of their next 14 games.
This season, their campaign has begun with a defeat, in a game they should have won, and Warriors will be hoping for a reversal that's as stark as the one they experienced in 2012. They were tied down in a small chase by some excellent bowling by Sunrisers Hyderabad, and their batting needs to come good against the Kings XI Punjab attack that can be a tricky opponent.
Kings XI Punjab are heavy on medium-pace and spin options that can restrict sides on slowish tracks, and the Subroto Roy Sahara Stadium appeared to produce a mixed bag last year, with several scores above 150 as well as totals as low as 121 that were successfully defended. Punjab have had their own concerns with deceptive starts. They had an impressive first season, but didn't make it to the knockouts in the next four. Last season, they didn't win more than two games on the trot and had a poor spell at home, just as Pune did.
Players to watch
Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey, both from Karnataka, can be an explosive duo at the top of the order, but found the going difficult against Dale Steyn in the first game. Both opened last season, but not regularly and never together. Uthappa did slightly better than his partner, amid frequent shuffling in the batting line-up, but how they - attacking batsmen who love to dominate the bowling - perform in tandem remains to be seen. They did provide an indication, with a 145-run stand, albeit in a losing cause last year.
Parvinder Awana was in the limelight last IPL season with 17 wickets from 12 games, impressing many with his pace, at one point clocking 147 kmph against Mumbai Indians. He was ignored by selectors for the India A tour to the Caribbean last year, but a strong performance in the Ranji Trophy for Delhi won him a call-up to India's Test squad during the series against England. Among the quicker bowlers in India, he'll be closely monitored again.
These two teams played back-to-back games last season, and shared honours. Warriors beat Kings XI by 22 runs in the first game. The second one was a low-scorer, with Warriors being bowled out for 115 and Kings XI chasing it down comfortably. Dimitri Mascarenhas picked up a five-for.
Stats and trivia
- Pune Warriors have played 31 IPL games in all, but are yet to have a centurion.
- David Hussey stands an excellent chance of completing 5000 runs in T20 cricket. He is on 4821 currently, 75 behind Chris Gayle and 453 behind leader Brad Hodge.
"I have brought about some technical changes in my batting, and at the moment it is working for me. I am happy [with] the way I am batting right now."
"In the last two seasons, we have been in the running for a semi-finals [berth] till [our] last game. We have strengthened the squad from last year."
Adam Gilchrist, the Kings XI Punjab captain
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo