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Pune Warriors have been listless with the bat and on the field, but where does the franchise go from here?
May 11, 2013
This is what some weak sides do in an ODI chase, when they know they have been batted out of the game and have no hope of winning. They try and bat out their 50 overs, without showing too much intent to go after the target. This may sound incongruous in the times of Twenty20, it is still not easy to throw your bat around for 50 overs at a stretch.
Is this approach possible in a T20 chase, when say, you have been batted into oblivion by Chris Gayle? Maybe you can be forgiven for backing off if the opposition opener makes 175 off 66 and you go into the break knowing, as does everyone present at the ground, that chasing 264 in 20 overs is just not happening.
But taking the same approach when batting first in a T20? At your home ground? With absolutely nothing to lose, having already lost 11 of 13 games in the season? In their three years of existence, Pune Warriors have done their best to show that the concept of Twenty20 as fast-paced entertainment was sold to the world without watching them bat. When Warriors bat, there is little entertainment, unless your idea of it is to watch some quality batsmen and some not-so-good ones block, nudge, and mistime, all in slow motion.
The IPL is only into its sixth season, but fans have come to expect something different from every franchise. Chennai Super Kings have made go-slow-and-explode into something of a mantra. You know you have to watch out for Gayle, Kohli and AB to do their respective acts when Royal Challengers Bangalore bat, and more often than not, they don't disappoint. Mumbai Indians have big guns all the way from No. 1 to No 6, and invariably, a couple of them fire and post big totals.
What do you get with Warriors? Change as many captains as you will, you get the same brand of directionless batting, as if all they want to do is play out the 20 overs and get off the park. One can't blame them too much, at least not at this stage of another season that has gone nowhere.
Losing streaks can grow on a side, and especially when it has been guilty of putting together multiple ones, a team can easily get into another rut, where every game seems like a chore. The regulars might think, 'Oh well, this looks like that time last season, the good part is that seasons come to an end.' The fringe ones might go, 'Here comes my chance after four matches. Do I bat for my place in the side? I'll take my cue from the regulars.'
You would expect a line-up that looks so competent on paper to translate at least some of it onto the field. You would think the pressure of playing in a billion-dollar league and being owned by a billionaire would at least goad them to go down blazing. What you get instead, game after game, is tepid, mediocre stuff.
Equally disappointing is that most of the personnel are no way close to being mediocre. People still remember that Robin Uthappa used to hit sixes on the walk. His strike-rate this season is 116.66. Yuvraj Singh is arguably a limited-overs great. He's hit a couple of outstanding shots here and there to average 20-odd for the season, which is not saying much for someone around whom the line-up was supposed to be built. One-time captain Angelo Mathews has cut a confused, helpless figure. Current captain Aaron Finch has increasingly done the same.
Allan Donald will have us believe there is some class in the bowling attack in the form of Ashok Dinda, who's leaked close to ten runs an over. If there is class there, it is playing the wrong format. Mitchell Marsh isn't far behind on the economy front. Abhishek Nayar's batting average is the same as the number of games he's played - 11. His strike-rate is an apologetic 90.41.
As sorry as these figures look, their collective effect on the field is worse on the typical Warriors' fan. Bombarded as he is by the notion that T20 is all explosive, thrilling hitting, he has had to endure exactly the opposite for most of three seasons now. Against Mumbai Indians, Warriors did not hit a single boundary for the last 57 deliveries - almost half of their innings. You have to feel for those who made the journey in the afternoon heat to the Sahara Stadium from both sides of the Pune-Mumbai expressway.
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