Steve Smith, who was impressive in the last edition, will look to come good once again. (AFP)
New Delhi: After two dubious seasons, Pune Warriors India will be led by a newly appointed captain with an eye on changing the tide in IPL 6. This will be Pune's third year in the cash-rich league after finishing at the bottom of the points table in 2011 and 2012.
But prior to the start, they suffered a setback in the form of Michael Clarke, who will miss the whole of IPL 6 due to back injury. Clarke was in the fray to lead the side, but his absence now gives Sri Lanka's Test and ODI captain Angelo Mathews a chance to hone his leadership skills. Last year, Pune started off well but fizzled out as the league progressed and consistency would be the key this time around.
In the February auction they bought Clarke, Ajantha Mendis, Abhishek Nayar and Kane Richardson. Nayar, who was the prized catch for Pune at $675,000, would be useful as an allrounder, but the team will miss out on the service of a regular wicketkeeper-batsman. They had the option of acquiring one, but resisted and that leaves Robin Uthappa to do duty behind the stumps again.
In all probability, Wayne Parnell and Rahul Sharma may miss out due to their ongoing drugs issue , which leaves Pune with few options. What they can look forward to is the return of the talismanic Yuvraj Singh, a proven Twenty20 match-winner with bat and ball. On the batting front Pune look fine with some T20 specialists like Luke Wright, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Ross Taylor and Mathews. But the presence of Indian youngsters who are coming into the IPL on the back of a successful domestic season could have a big role to play.
Can Pune prove to be the surprise package with a team not strong enough compared to other franchises? Moreover, the longer itinerary would help their cause by giving them ample time to adjust and bounce back when down.
Key players: Abhishek Nayar, Yuvraj Singh, Mitchell Marsh, Luke Wright, Angelo Mathews
Players Retained: Robin Uthappa, Murali Kartik, Rahul Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Manish Pandey, Yuvraj Singh, Raiphi Gomez, Mithun Manhas, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ali Murtaza, Harpreet Singh, Anustup Mazumdar, Krishnakant Upadhyay, Mahesh Rawat, Shrikant Wagh, Dheeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Ishwar Pandey, T Suman, Udit Birla, Angelo Mathews, Alfonso Thomas, Wayne Parnell, Marlon Samuels, Luke Wright, Mitchell Marsh, Steven Smith, Tamim Iqbal
Players Dropped: Ashish Nehra, Sourav Ganguly, Callum Ferguson, Kamran Khan, Harshad Khadiwale, Sachin Rana, Jesse Ryder, Graeme Smith
Players Bought: Michael Clarke ($400,000), Ajantha Mendis ($725,000), Abhishek Nayar ($675,000), Kane Richardson ($700,000)
Foreign Players: Ajantha Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Kane Richardson, Luke Wright, Marlon Samuels, Michael Clarke, Mitchell Marsh, Ross Taylor, Steve Smith, Tamim Iqbal, Wayne Parnell
Domestic Players: Abhishek Nayar, Ali Murtaza, Anustup Majumdar, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dheeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Harpreet Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Krishnakant Upadhyay, Mahesh Rawat, Manish Pandey, Mithun Manhas, Parveez Rasool, Rahul Sharma, Raiphi Gomez, Robin Uthappa, Shrikant Wagh, Tirumalasetti Suman, Udit Birla, Yuvraj Singh