When we endorsed the Pune Warriors prior to the start of the tournament, we assumed they’d be absolute rubbish and lose every game, giving us plenty of opportunity to overblow all of their most minute achievements for comic effect throughout. The slight delay in getting this first review up is down in no small part to the fact that they threw an enormous spanner into those particular works by, well, not being a total shambles. Anyway, more of that later.
The IPL exploded into life in an opening ceremony capped off by renowned cricket enthusiast Katy Perry delivering a musical interpretation of Kumar Sangakkara’s much-heralded MCC Spirit of Cricket speech. Or something. Rumours that she was seen leaving Steve Smith’s hotel room later that evening are yet to be confirmed, but such a turn of events would seem logical enough. Once the serious business was out of the way it was onto the cricket itself, as holders Chennai hosted Mumbai.
After all the build up, we were finally underway. Faf du Plessis ran himself out four balls in and the tournament never looked back. There were two more run outs in the same innings and an incredible 20 in the 13 matches since then, the highlight perhaps being Chennai managing four in one game against Delhi. A superb effort from all concerned.
As for the matches themselves, the problem with games as short as twenty overs is there’s not a lot of time to recover from a poor start and this has been emphasised by a severe lack of close finishes in the tournament so far. Only two of the first 14 encounters has seen a really exciting finale, both largely thanks to comedy bowling performances in the final overs. First Rohit Sharma helped Mumbai score 22 from the final 7 balls, including a final ball DCI Maximum off a hip high Dan Christian full toss (average Australians? Kevin Pietersen says hi), to beat Deccan before Chennai completely outdid them against Bangalore on Thursday. Chasing a Chris Gayle inspired 205, the ‘Super Kings’ looked out of it at 163/4 with two overs to go. Fortunately for them Daniel Vettori cites Darren Sammy as his captaincy inspiration, mistook Virat Kohli for Lasith Malinga and handed him the ball for the 19th over. Combined, he and Vinay Kumar conceded 45 from their 12 balls and the game was gone.
The mighty Pune haven’t been concerning themselves with making their games exciting, they destroyed Mumbai and Kings XI in their first two games with the ruthless efficiency of Steve Waugh’s great Australian side. How appropriate that they have their own Aussie great steering them to glory. Having been in trouble during their opening game, Smith came in, blitzed 39 to take them to a competitive total before Ashok Dinda bowled like the wind to destroy the Mumbai top order. Easy win, no problem. Have we accidentally endorsed a proper team?
Those fears were only enhanced in the second game against Kings XI, where once again Smith fired his side to a more than competitive total before being involved in running out (quelle surprise) both openers and from then on victory was assured. An undefeated tournament looked a formality… Until they were cheated by the fixture list. Forced to play Kings XI for the second time in four days, a move presumably designed to destroy any hopes the underdogs may have of challenging for the title, Pune couldn’t maintain their form and fell to a glorious defeat.
Having dedicated quite a lot of our time to the IPL over the past week or so, we’d appreciate a few more tight games and a slightly higher standard than we’ve seen so far. Pune have been pioneers of excellent, all-round cricket in this tournament and the other sides are going to have to adapt to compete. We’d also very much like them to give Luke Wright a game soon, there’s only so many times we can take seeing him overlooked in favour of mediocre overseas ‘stars’ like Jesse Ryder or Marlon Samuels.