Match#16: Pune Warriors v/s Delhi Daredevils
Dr. DY Patil Sports Academy, Navi Mumbai
Form Guide: PW- Win, Win, DD- Loss, Loss,
For someone who may not follow the IPL too much and is clueless about the identity of the teams facing off, a scroll down the current standings may considerably confuse matters further for him/her- The Daredevils look much like the bumbling debutants who are anything but daring (while playing cricket in hell) and the Warriors look like, well, Warriors.
Contrasting fortunes? No.
One would not necessarily attribute Delhi’s enviably consistent performance so far to ‘luck’ or ‘fortune’, but very simply to lack of depth and quality in their squad. A change in fortunes may occur momentarily in the form of a rare win once in a while, but that will strictly be only good fortune or unbelievable luck. Sadly, for their passionate North-Indian fans who have been used to explosive performances over the first 2 editions- this year may result in them taking over the prestigious ‘Wooden Spoon’ (no pun intended) from a disgruntled (but very patient) city in Bengal.
One cannot blame the Delhi management for shyly glancing at the Pune franchise and (in glorious flashback) romanticizing about ‘the first two years, when we were young, new and brash- with the world at our feet and foreign players pouring out of our tummies.’ Oh yes, those days. The Warriors have justified the pre-season hype that surrounded their clever team selection, and the glow on Yuvraj Singh’s face right now is much like the glow on Dhoni’s face during the World Cup. It reads: ‘All of you do your homework regularly boys. Let me just sit back and chill- and maybe stand up if we need to win the final.’ It always helps that you have a player like Uthappa who decides to put on his best Viv Richards swagger only for 1.5 months a year. The rest of the year, he wonders why he isn’t bleeding blue.
The team balance seems to be clicking well, though to be fair- they do not look as dominant as a Mumbai or a…Mumbai (Kochi might argue that point). They have already faced two teams low on firepower, and facing the DareDevils who are not even the best team in the North anymore- will only add considerable speed to Pune’s babysteps into the IPL. No player has distinctly stood out and captured one’s imagination yet, but when the team’s captain and best batsman hasn’t had much to do yet (forget the Kochi failure Yuvi- saat khoon aur maaf!), it is always a good sign for a bits-and-pieces team that seems to thrive on chasing a score.
The draw has been kind to the debutants so far and the real test lies ahead (namely the ‘derby’ against Mumbai), but to their credit- they have not faltered and they definitely look good enough to go the distance. Though one is not too sure if the genetically-slim Ryder might last the marathon distance. It may work in his favour, though- if the colour of his cheeks begin to match the colour of the DareDevil jerseys, he can use the age-old weapon of camouflage to surprise the opposition and thereby destroy them by acting like one of them. (not difficult to enact a Delhi player nowadays)
Player to watch out for: Mohnish Mishra
After an impressive and fearless innings that rescued Pune from the ignominy of losing to a bowling attack that includes Sreesanth, the young MP boy duly demonstrated that finishing, as an art, is of utmost importance.(read Robin Uthappa’s nonsensical reverse sweep)
‘Trust me, Viru paaji gets bored after the first over. Don’t worry!’
Also, Jesse Ryder looks to be coming into his own as an all-rounder and Wayne Parnell seems to be enjoying leading a decent bowling attack and winning for a change. But his nationality may work against him in the dreaded KNOCKOUT stages. Yuvraj will duly look to get rid of him before that.
Delhi Daredevils: (Semi finalists 2008, 2009)
In contrast to Pune’s good fortune as far as the draw is concerned so far, Virender Sehwag can pat his boys on their bruised backs with words of consolation that remind them that they have faced the two stronger teams in the IPL so far. Things can only get easier from here on- until they face those two teams again. Which is not very far away.
Apart from Morkel living upto his reputation and being as measly as a Rajasthan owner’s pocket, the brightest spot in this dark beginning for Delhi has been the eternally-present, resourceful supporting actor of a failing cast called Venugopal Rao. Now this has not been completely a bolt from the blue like the previous Indians to have set the IPL stage alight, because Rao has been showing continuous glimpses of his potential for three years with the done-it-all-seen-it-all Deccan Chargers. A lesson could be in order for the top 3 of the batting line-up if they observe Rao go about repairing an innings (time and again).
They might want to look at actually trying to justify Irffan Pathan’s enormous price-tag by promoting him up the order and allowing him to gain back much of his confidence that had disappeared faster than his ability to swing the ball consistently. Being selected as a ‘batting all-rounder’ in the Indian line-up sometime back did not help matters either.
Player to watch out for: Naman Ojha
The spirited wicketkeeper (patented by that man Warne, again) equipped with a batting style remnant of the unforgettable Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Romesh Kaluwitharana, is yet to fire for the DareDevils. The boy is a ticking time-bomb, much like Virender Sehwag is- who, we hope, has not lost interest in T20 cricket altogether. The trick for him would be to face a team in a white (test) jersey- but sadly, that is not happening anytime soon- unless the younger Ambani ties up with Narendra Modi next year.
‘Red is just not my colour anymore. Yawn.’
The Warriors at home could be too much of a tall task for the floundering Daredevils. But the very nature of their batting attack that has so far been their bane- might just click one day, and they will be hoping that day comes soon. Right now, a Pune win seems to co-exist with pure logical reasoning. But there is way too much logic and reasoning that is already associated with One-Day cricket and Tests, and IPL is one’s solitary escape to the world of madness and fantasy- where anything goes.
One can never be too sure.