Match#62: Stairway to Hell

Match#62: Pune Warriors v/s Deccan Chargers

Dr. DY Patil stadium, Navi Mumbai

Form: PWI- Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Win, Win,
               DC- Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Win,

With the pressure totally off both teams, expect some explosive and brainless cricket that may excite may attract many new fans to the game- somewhat similar to what they have been doing for the last few games. Bang-bang it will be, indeed- with nothing to lose, and we could finally see some fearless no-holds barred cricket from both teams- who are capable of beating anyone on ‘their day’ (which is as rare as sober mornings for L. SivaramaKrishnan or original phrases for Ravi Shastri)
But then, this is Deccan and Pune we are talking about. Quality is the least of our concerns. Mediocre teams often make for exciting cricket though- just look at the first test that took place between West Indies and Pakistan. Point made. 

Coming off convincing wins against stronger teams, both these teams come out with a vengeance to prove once and for all- that they are the true ‘party-poopers’ of IPL 2011. Simultaneously, this game will probably go a long way in deciding, once and for all, the winner of the more interesting battle going on right now- that of the bottom three. Could it be Pune, Deccan or Delhi- all with four wins and looking good to not add to that tally!

Pune Warriors:

Exactly a week has passed since Saurav Ganguly stepped onto the field, did nothing different while fielding (limited to bouts of embarrassment) and then walked out to bat- once again proving what a great showcase of mental strength this game can be about. Even Steve Waugh would be proud of the sheer amount of comebacks that Dada has managed, successfully at that- politics or not. To watch grit overcome cynicism and doubt is a rare privilege these days, and what better team to do it for than the greatest underperformers of this year? Smart move, indeed. It could have possibly not gotten any worse.
Yuvi has already started talking about a place in the test squad, and to be brutally honest- it shows that his mind is already humming at greener shores. Captaincy of this debut outfit seems to be the last thing on his mind right now- and Dada will only be keen to manage things and take over from his protégé (secretly though, shhhh!)

‘Yuvi looks tired, boys. Now here’s the plan…’

The Warriors, with their not-so-secret weapon Rahul Sharma, have come to the party only seconds after the party was officially cut short for them- but it is probably never too late for some post-party fun. Armed with the frustrating inability to score big (Uthappa) and blink-and-miss cameos (Ryder), Pune seem to finally be getting their balance half-right. So what if it was against the clueless Chargers? After all, they face them once again- and this time, at home. Preparations galore for the big game against KKR just a few days away. No guesses for why most Bengali Babus will be welcoming Maharasthrian migrants (or the other way around?) into their home and stuffing them with ‘khoob mishti doi’.
Even more heartening is the discovery of the reincarnation of a milder Bond, Shane Bond in the form of young Mitchell Marsh- whose smooth action brings back memories of the calm destruction of the greatest Kiwi fast bowler ever. Early days still, but the pieces seem to be coming together for the next season- in which (subject to performance) Dada might make yet another comeback- as captain or coach?
The mystery has been unravelled- IPL 2011 was just a warm-up tournament for the Warriors, and expect greater things to come from a sensational team that has set the bar so low that they cannot possibly do any worse.

Player to watch out for: Rahul Sharma

Impossible to name anyone more consistent this season. With an economy rate of less than 6, the bowler with the damaged facial nerves has started to put the fear of Anil Kumble back into many a nervy young batsman (who duly mistake his current action for that of a leg-spinner’s) Ask the 600-odd batsmen who fell to Kumble- and they are still to figure out his ‘genre’.

Deccan Chargers: (Winners 2009)

Almost assured the ultimate prize before the Mumbai game, The Chargers will now shift their sights to greater lands and bigger goals- like not doing an encore in IPL 2012. Already having beaten their own record of the least number of wins in a season by a Wooden spooner, Deccan will feel slightly better that they had created an illusion of being in the mix of things right till the 11th game- where they duly had to drop the world’s best bowler because….well, just to try something different.
Kumara Sangakkara has come a full circle- from leading a team that inexplicably dropped 3 of their best players for the World Cup final- to leading a team that dropped Dale Steyn in one of their most crucial games a week back. They had ‘rested’ him then- and he looks deflated enough to be rested for good now. The inspiring bowling performance (FINALLY!) against MI was just waiting to happen- and it was only a matter of time (12 games, ugh) before the strength of their bowling unit outdid the impotency of their batting unit. 
With positively no strengths to take away from every alternate game other than Sangakkara’s consistent ability to get a start and throw it away time and again, DC will now turn to the bowling trio of Ojha, Mishra and Sharma (World Champion country indeed) to spare them the blushes that may see them fight it out with the Warriors for the ultimate honour in IPL cricket.


Sacred Sanga

Sanga, though, must be shattered enough to take a one-year hiatus from cricket now, after a traumatic two months that must have made him contemplate going to the mountains and settling down as Sadhu Sanga Lanka Baba.
With Sunny Sohal trying his very best to convince authorities that he is in grave need of mental counselling, DC could be on their way to yet another bottom-place finish that may place them in the record books for being the only team to finish dead-last if they do not manage to make the knockouts.
2009- last. 2009- Winners. 2010- Semis. 2011- last?
It is almost as if finishing between 4th to 9th is a crime, and there is no point playing if the semis are out of reach. Atta boys- nice spirit to have!
Other than Ishant Sharma’s meteoric re-rise to the top of Indian bowling form (the term differs), Deccan really do not have much to boast about this year. Beating Mumbai at home was quite the consolation they were looking for, but even Kochi have accomplished that feat (and look where they are). Having said that, K-040000 was one of Deccan’s starry nights, of course.

Player to watch out for: Amit Mishra

The leg-spinner who almost massacred Munaf (quite literally) has proved that he is quite handy with the bat- duly justifying his well earned place in the ODI squad heading to the Windies. He possesses a bunch of variations and deliveries that Chawla seems to have removed from his own repertoire- and it is still a mystery as to why he was ignored for World Cup Selection. Of course, all is well that ends well- but if there was any hanky-panky that accompanied the shocking selection of Chawla, it must be exposed and ended immediately.
Wriddhiman Saha being picked for the Windies tour ahead of Karthik, Naman Ojha, Uthappa and even Rayadu- only drives home the point I am making. Something is amiss, indeed.


Pune might finally live upto exactly 28% of their original potential- which means they will win atleast one more game this season. I suspect it could be this one- for the game against KKR on the 19th will be too riot-ridden and controversial to even expect a sane result in. Dada, Oh Dada. 

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