Preview: Pune vs Punjab, Match 5

April 10, 2011

Yuvraj Singh is bound to feel a little strange when he walks out for the Kings XI Punjab versus Pune Warriors match tomorrow. He will be walking out to toss with Adam Gilchrist, against whom he had tossed during IPL 2008 and 2009 too. However, this time Gilchrist will be representing the team Yuvraj had always been an integral part of.

However, being the professionals they are all cricketers will not let these historical curiosities bother them too much and Yuvraj in particular, must be raring to go to cash in on the good form that saw him get the Man of the Tournament award in the World Cup.

Pune Warriors

The second new franchise in the IPL looks a lot more potent and balanced than the Kochi one. For starters, they are led by the rejuvenated Yuvraj Singh. when he’s in form, there are few better batsmen in limited-overs cricket than Yuvraj and his confidence is high after his recent accomplishments. Pune also have the flamboyant Robin Uthappa who had a superb IPL 2010 and was surprisingly not retained by Bangalore. Their squad would have looked stronger but Ashish Nehra will be out of the first few matches with the finger injury he picked up in the World Cup, while Angelo Mathews is likely to be out of the whole tournament. However, in Callum Fergusson, Graeme Smith, Nathan McCullum, Mitchell Marsh and Wayne Parnell they have good overseas players to call on. Apart from Yuvraj and Uthappa, the other prominent Indian members are Murali Kartik, Mithun Manhas and Manish Pandey. They also have a host of Indians who have taken part in previous IPLs and shone sporadically for different franchises. Their main worry is bowling, which has been hit hardest by the lack of Nehra or Mathews. The lack of good Indian bowlers apart from Murali Karthik make it virtually certain that Nathan McCullum and Wayne Parnell will get a place in the final eleven, while the batting will have to revolved around Yuvraj and Uthappa given Graeme Smith’s patchy form.

Kings XI Punjab

The Kings XI Punjab finished bottom of the table in the last IPL, and with their off-field troubles with the BCCI, didn’t have the time to retain players before the auctions. Whether that was just a poor cover-up excuse for a franchise that wanted a new look or whether it was actually true, the fact remains that the Kings XI are barely recognizable from the team that took to the field for the first three IPLs. They will be led by Adam Gilchrist, who knows a thing or two about both finishing bottom and about winning the championship. The other prominent overseas players are Shaun Marsh – hero of IPL 2008, Ryan Harris, David Hussey and Ryan McLaren. One of these four will not make the final eleven given that Gilchrist is the captain, the that could well be the talented Ryan McLaren since Marsh’s batting talent and Harris’ bowling fire-power will be needed and David Hussey has greater Twenty20 pedigree than McLaren. Among the Indians Punjab have the useful Abhishek Nayar and Dinesh Karthik, with Praveen Kumar – who should form an effective opening partnership with Harris, as well as Piyush Chawla. A lot will depend on how effectively Gilchrist is able to recapture his batting form, having been out of competitive cricket for so long. He didn’t have a particularly scintillating IPL 2010, but he is amongst the legends of the game for a reason and can never be written off.

Verdict

Punjab appear to have better over-all balance, but Pune definitely have the upper hand in game-changers. This looks like an evenly matched battle, and with sunny weather forecast in Mumbai, fans can expect a nice well-fought game.

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