The situation is the same for both sides. There’s nothing to lose, nothing much to gain either. Barring, perhaps, the ignominy of finishing at the bottom of the 10-team table.
Pune Warriors, one of the pre-tournament favourites, are currently third from the bottom of the IPL 4 ladder, with just eight points from 11 matches. Deccan Chargers are further down, second from bottom. They too are on eight points, but have played a game more. Neither team has any hope of making the play-offs either. What will matter for both, therefore, is how much higher they can finish on the pecking order. So, when the two bottom sides meet at the DY Patil Stadium on Monday night in what will be a ‘home’ clash for Pune Warriors, not much will be at stake. That’s why one can expect a cracker of a clash, as the pressure of expectations will be off both sides’ shoulders.
On paper, Yuvraj Singh’s Warriors hold a slight edge, considering that they beat the Chargers away in their last clash on May 10. More than the six-wicket win, what was memorable about that game in Hyderabad was the triumphant return of Sourav Ganguly. The former Kolkata Knight Riders icon, who was discarded by all franchisees at the players’ auction, hit a match-winning run-a-ball 32 in what was his first match of IPL 4. Dada is expected to be the Warriors’ trump card again on Monday.
There are others too who have points to prove, more to themselves than others. Warriors’ skipper Yuvraj hasn’t quite managed to carry forward his World Cup form and that seems to have hit his team’s fortunes hard. With the trip to West Indies coming up next, Yuvraj needs to make the best use of the remaining three matches to recapture his batting rhythm. The fluctuating ‘form-o-meter’ of Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa hasn’t helped the Warriors’ cause either, neither has the inconsistency of Jesse Ryder at the top of the order.
With their play-off hopes almost over, barring a miracle perhaps, these three could make the best use of the remaining games to showcase their potential.
The one positive thing to emerge from their forgettable campaign this season has been the emergence of Rahul Sharma. The Pune leg-spinner could well be the find of the tournament. He has the guile, the temperament, the accuracy and the variations to shine on the big stage. He might have missed out on the tour to West Indies, but one’s sure his chance will come soon.
Deccan Chargers are in the same predicament. The IPL 2 champions have been on a losing spree and, despite their one-off stunner against the high-flying Mumbai Indians in their last game on Saturday, have had a forgettable season so far. As their skipper, Kumar Sangakkara, summed it up the other day, “We have been lacking in basics, our fielding has let us down, we have shone in patches. For a team to do well, everything has to click together, and that has not happened for us this season.”