Over recent weeks the 51allout gin garden has been awash with debate; how exactly should we cover the enigma that is the Indian Premier League? The idea of steadfastly ignoring its existence entirely was mooted from some corners, most vocally in an angry, broad Midlands accent to which we shall give no name, but in the end we decided that if we can review all 517 matches of the Commonwealth Bank Series we can do anything and we’re going to stick this out to the bitter end. Though whether this will still be the case as we hear Danny Morrison scream about DLF Maximums for the hundredth time remains to be seen.
Once we had decided to gatecrash this wildly overpriced, morally questionable party, well, we needed a team, didn’t we?
With that in mind we carefully analysed the list of players going under the hammer in February in an attempt to get to grips with the whole shabang. To be honest, it was a bit of a shambles. Much of the time was spent staring incredulously at some of the price tags potential players have given themselves or typing ‘who the hell is Alister McDermott’ into Google, without success. It culminated in two of our number accidentally offending Rikki Clarke on Twitter* and it wasn’t our best work.
Despite this early setback we set about our task with renewed vigour. It was all going pretty well, too, until Ravindra Jadeja was sold to Chennai for over $2 million, at which point we became distracted trying to work out who spiked the gin supply. The investigation became a full-blown crisis when we thought we saw rookie Sunil Narine go to Kolkata for $700,000 and all-out civil war as Bangalore paid $1 million for Vinay Kumar. All’s well that ends well, though; we didn’t like their showmanship and so were able to rule out backing those three sides.
In between arguing amongst ourselves we did notice the fortunes of the English players involved in the auction: about as successful as their batting on a turning track. None of Jimmy Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Luke Wright or Graeme Swann picked up a contract, and by this stage we were beginning to panic. We had already decided the team we chose would have to have an English representative and it was starting to look less like slim pickings and more like starvation rations. At this point the only Englishmen in the tournament were Kevin Pietersen at Delhi (vetoed because that’s David Warner’s team too), Stuart Broad and Dimi Mascherenhas at Kings XI (we barely supported the latter when he played for England), Eoin Morgan at Kolkata (already out) and Paul Collingwood at Rajasthan (too much Brad Hogg). We were in trouble. We needed a saviour.
And then, on March 8th, one came.
Pune Warriors almost didn’t make the tournament at all. When Sahara, franchise owners as well as major sponsor of the BCCI, pulled out of both deals on the morning of the auction, their future was in jeopardy. They were unable to do any business on the day and it was another week before their participation was finally confirmed. Since then their signings have resembled a child let loose in a sweet shop but only being allowed to buy things from the bottom shelf. First came Ashok Dinda and James Hopes (who has since, disappointingly, been ruled out injured) before Marlon Samuels joined the revolution. Then came their day of reckoning.
To sign one international all-rounder is a coup, to sign two is a show-stopper. To sign two on the same day is an absolutely stunning swoop and from that moment on we were smitten. There are not many players to whom Steve Smith would play second fiddle, but the Sydney Sixers skipper’s signing was blown completely out of the water just hours later as Pune announced their capture of a T20 World Cup winner and scorer of the fastest hundred in Big Bash history. That’s right, the Warriors signed Steve Smith and Luke Wright in the space of two magical hours.
All our problems were solved; we began to research our new side and with every nugget of information we could lay our hands on we loved them even more. Not only do they have a plethora of bits and pieces all-rounders (along with messrs Smith and Wright they signed Hopes, Angelo Mathews and Nathan McCullum as well), they’ve also had to cope with losing Yuvraj Singh as he undergoes treatment for cancer, the aforementioned shenanigans at the auction, and have a player (Jesse Ryder) so beset with issues he’s had to bring a clinical psychologist to India with him. Oh, and Sourav Ganguly is the captain. They rather let us down this week by actually signing a competent player – Michael Clarke – but the likelihood of him getting through three Tests in the West Indies without his spine falling off seems fairly remote. We’ll be surprised if he makes it to bolster the ranks. That’s something of a relief; in a tournament dominated by powerful, world-renowned top orders, it’s endearing to see a side with absolutely none at all.
They’ve got a terrible team and absolutely no chance of winning. All together now: Give us a P!…
*Rikki Clarke explained to us the reason he had to put his base price at $200,000 (which was what caused our mirth in the first place) was because English players have to cover the cost to their county and that’s what he had to make to break even from going to the tournament. We felt quite bad after that.