Wooden Variations: Jokers in the pack

Match#53: Deccan Chargers v/s Pune Warriors

Rajiv Gandhi International stadium, Uppal, Hyderabad

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

It is no coincidence that the worst chasers in the league are currently dead bottom (in no particular order)- and it does not even seem like an unforeseen upset anymore. That Delhi and Punjab (to an extent) have almost been rescued from infamy by astonishingly inept performances by the Chargers and the Warriors- is now a footnote long lost amidst the fog of logic-challenged mediocrity. Yuvi and Sanga must have long forgotten the high of stepping out to face eachother proudly in the World Cup Final.

Distant memories, indeed.

Deccan Chargers: (Winners 2009, Semi finals 2010)

With only one win at home this season- true to form, as usual- the Chargers will be the only team in the world that cannot stand the sight of their own fans. One suspects that they were a lot happier with the setup last year where ‘home’ was DY Patil stadium in Mumbai- duly snatched away by the Warriors this season (with not much luck at all). In fact, the further away from Hyderabad they play- the better they look. How can one explain the 2009 tournament win in South Africa? Enigmatic, indeed.

‘Is that our captain sneaking out of the stadium with his kit?’

To their credit, scoring 175 in an IPL game against the worst team of this year (only on paper) would have had them breathing easy- and maybe even dreaming of pushing a few other teams close for a knockout place. But in a monstrous display of silken caressing that resembled more a Balinese massage than a Punjab da firecracker, Viru Sehwag made sure that Sangakkara’s love affair with India continues to resemble Rahul Mahajan’s latest marriage.

In fact, South Africa’s Rohit Sharma (also known as JP Duminy) finally made the most (by his recent standards) of a rare opportunity- and with the help of another non-performer called Daniel Christian (who might make the Victorian village ‘B’ squad very soon)- the Chargers actually managed to put up a competitive total. *Facepalm*

Joining today’s opponents Pune on the sidelines as part of the IPL scrapheap, Deccan will play desperately to save face and not be the first team to spoon themselves (pun intended) twice!

Player to watch out for: Dale Steyn, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra

The 3-pronged attack that looked the best in the league just a week back- still continues to perform impressively- even when faced with Sehwag’s merciless onslaught. The performance of Ishant will warm Indian hearts, and he will look to resurrect his career as soon as possible.

Dale Steyn will be happy to let his lanky partner revel in the dim limelight- and sneak up on the batsmen from the other end at 150 kmph.

Amit Mishra will try to recover from his previous performance that comfortably destroyed the effectiveness of all his brilliant spells so far. Cruel game, we know, but tell Viru that.

Facing equals Pune might calm their nerves- but they must realize that this will be a very entertaining mini-war for the submissive action-starved fans of both sides.

Pune Warriors India:

Finally, the streak ends. The Warriors have finally won a game- and Yuvraj seemed to be inspired by the continued non-inclusion of (mentor already?) Ganguly and the familiar dimples of his ex-boss. A loss more and the magnitude of cluelessness reflected in their performances could have reached levels of mythological proportions. Sadly, the history books will stop at 7- until next year’s wooden spooner decides to take centre stage. But still, this record will take some beating. To consistently defeat one’s own purpose so often required a special kind of talent- which the duo of Geoff Marsh and Yuvraj Singh seemed to have in abundance.

Bottoms up!

And what better way to end their continued non-dominance by passing over the smelly baton to a team that looks set to do a ‘double’. Yes, IPL’s first double- and no, it definitely does not involve silwerware or any kind of title. Punjab are going down- and Gilchrist might add yet another chapter to his shockingly illustrous IPL-captaincy career- it reads: One wooden spoon, One title, One semi-final. And another wooden spoon is on its way- set to round things up for Australia’s second best captain that never was.

Coming back to their fierce competitors Pune, they are on a roll now- one win, and God knows how many more to come. Maybe one more? With every expert’s prayers finally answered- and Uthappa promoted to number 3 and Yuvi to 4, the team actually managed to chase down a score without looking like Shahrukh Khan in an experimental film. Well, close.

Was it Dada’s mere presence? Or was it Pune’s style statement- and exposure of their strategy of cruelly unleashing Dada against Kolkata on May 19th? Either way, it seems to have worked.

Now they will look to carry on their good work against yet another contender for rockbottom-IV. This game will probably decide who eats humble dhokla this year. Of course, the game following this one will probably confirm it.

Player to watch out for: Rahul Sharma

The leg-spinner is back- and one cannot help but notice how he lines up his targets like a sharp-shooter while bowling (complete with the aiming ‘wink’). By far, the best young player of IPL-2011 so far- inevitable comparisons to his idol Anil Kumble have begun- or as a cynical soul would call it-  ‘a downward spiral into Irfan Pathan land’.

Hard to get away on any pitch, Sharma looks like the real deal and is chiefly responsible for most of his bowling partners wickets too.

Should be interesting to watch the Deccan batsman- especially the overrated Dhawan and the eccentric Sohail- take on this talented tweaker. If they last till then, that is.

Also, Manish Pandey (also known as the distant cousin of Poonam Pandey- or so he wishes) is making his presence felt with consistent back-to-back knocks that must definitely take the weight of Jesse’s shoulders (pun intended, definitely).

Anything to keep Graeme Smith out of the team. Or cricket, in general.

Prediction:

Inspite of Deccan having one of the better bowling attacks around, another choke is around the corner. The Warriors will feel like they’re playing at home anyway- and should continue their ‘win’ momentum so that things start to hat up at the bottom.

Boring Mumbai Indians. Ha.

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