After a stunning all round show for triumphant Team India in the World Cup, Yuvraj Singh is all set to lead debutantes Pune Warriors in the fourth Indian Premier League against Kings XI Punjab at the D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Saturday.
The talented left-hander, who received the man of the tournament award in the World Cup for his superb display, has to put behind those heady feelings and celebrations and inspire his team to a dream debut against his former franchise outfit on Sunday.
Yuvraj has, at his command, what on paper appears to be a good and balanced outfit. But injuries to key bowlers, India’s Cup-winning member Ashish Nehra and Angelo Matthews of Sri Lanka, present him with a challenge to shuffle his attack.
With only four foreign players eligible to be in the playing eleven and in the absence of the two injured players, Yuvraj and coach Geoff Marsh, the former Australian opener, have left-arm medium pacer Wayne Parnell and right-handed duo of Jerome Taylor and Alphonso Thomas to choose from.
With offie Nathan McCullum, left-arm Murali Karthik and he himself available for bowling the slow stuff, the Pune bowling appears to cover a lot of base in the spin department.
The batting also looks quite strong with South Africa captain Graeme Smith, Aussie stumper Tim Paine, Kiwi Jesse Ryder and Mitchell Marsh – son of coach Geoff, available for selection.
Besides, India discard Robin Uthappa as well as experienced domestic campaigners Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Dheeraj Jadhav and Mithun Manhas gives Yuvraj a lot of option to choose from.
Pune would certainly have loved to have another Karnataka Ranji mainstay Manish Pandey available for the tie but he has been banned by the T20 League’s governing council from playing his side’s first four matches for breaching the IPL player terms and conditions.
Their rivals Kings XI Punjab, on the other hand, have gone for a total image makeover after failing to create many ripples, barring the semi-final appearance in 2008, over the last three editions.
In fact, they finished eighth and last in 2010 and have a lot to do to bring them up the pecking order in IPL 4.
The team is banking a lot on Australian great Adam Gilchrist to turn things around like he did for Deccan Chargers when he led them to the title in 2009 in South Africa after a poor show in the inaugural year.
Gilchrist and Shaun Marsh, the elder son of Pune team’s coach Geoff, are expected to open the innings but the Micheal Bevan-coached side lacks a big name to shore up the middle which has Australian David Hussey and India discard Dinesh Kartik in it.
Gilchrist, who has retired from the international game, seems to have a lightweight batting line up at his command though the medium pace bowling looks better.
Praveen Kumar, who unfortunately missed out on World Cup glory after getting injured prior to the event, will open the bowling for Kings XI, while South African all rounder Ryan McLaren, Shalab Srivastava, Vikramjeet Malik and Love Ablish are the other options available at Gilchrist’s disposal.
The slow bowling department too wears a thin look with only Piyush Chawla, who failed to impress in the World Cup, among the better known names to show the way forward.
“We have put together a strong team this season with some of the best cricketers in the world. At the helm we have the experienced captain Adam Gilchrist who would infuse right fervor and guide the team to play some great cricket in the upcoming season,” Bevan said.
“Kings XI Punjab has a new look but we will endeavor to play as one team where each player complements the other. The squad has great talent and with new renewed energy and teamwork we are determined to aim for a successful season,” Gilchrist said.
Pune Warriors: Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa, Murali Kartik, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Deeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Ganesh Gaikwad, Harpreet Singh Bhatia, Harshad Khadiwale, Kamran Khan, Mithun Manhas, Mohnish Mishra, Rahul Sharma, Sachin Rana, Shrikant Wagh, Shrikant Mundhe, Imtiyaz Ahmed
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist, Dinesh Kartik, Abhishek Nayar, Praveen Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Love Ablish, Mandeep Singh, Nitin Saini, Paras Dogra, Paul Valthaty, Shalabh Srivastava, Siddharth Chitnis, Sunny Singh, Vikramjeet Malik, Amit Yadav, Shaun Marsh, David Hussey, Nathan Rimmongton, Ryan Harris, Dmitri Mascarenhas.