As the West Indies fought their way to a stoic but highly predictable defeat at Lords, our thoughts naturally turned towards the performances of a team half a world away, as the Pune Warriors’ IPL campaign came to an equally predictable conclusion. Heading into the final game of the season Pune sat second last on the table, the same position they’d occupied at the end of the previous season. In fact their season was very similar to their effort of said previous campaign where they also won two of their first three games before falling apart at the seams. But a last minute batting collapse that sent Bangalore crashing out of the tournament was also enough to raise Deccan above Pune at the last.
For Pune it was always going to be a tough season. Precluded from participating in the player auction owing to one of those contract disputes the IPL seems to revel in, the Pune team was the very definition of a bits and pieces outfit, largely comprised of cast-offs from other teams, returning players who nobody else wanted, and debutants who had been ignored at the auction. In theory this approach could have played in their favour, as their team of misfits had something to prove to the rest of the competition that had scorned them. Instead, barring one notable exception, they floundered. With their season now over, and very much against our better judgement, we’ve decided to rate the performances of some of Pune’s key players. It understandably doesn’t make for pleasant reading.
The one outstanding contributor for Pune, Smith’s form with the bat and his eye-catching efforts in the field have no doubt played a large role in his recall to the Australian ODI setup, and put him back on the fringes of the Test squad. He is marked down slightly due to his somewhat subdued efforts with the bat late in the tournament. But considering he was often required to rebuild an innings after the hopeless mess the top order had made of it, he can largely be forgiven that indiscretion.
Dinda’s season largely mirrored that of Pune’s in that he exploded onto the scene with 4/18 against Mumbai in the opening game of the season and then drifted badly, ultimately ending in obscurity. Injuries played their part in robbing Pune of their most effective bowler, and he never regained his early form after his return.
After having been overlooked for most of the early tournament, Parnell made a competent contribution, typically bowling a tight line that helped restrain the opposition’s top order. Let down by a lack of wickets (one of Pune’s many Achilles Heel’s was their inability to take wickets consistently) and a poor return with the bat.
Another player whose contributions were hampered by a lack of steady of appearances as he was shuffled in and out of the squad. Like Smith he was typically required to resuscitate a flagging innings from the middle order, a role he struggled to cope with.
Required to effectively play an all-rounder role, Matthews performed adequately with both bat and ball but was hardly a match winner with either. He performed decently as a death bowler, meaning he was at least better than some of the other muppets who attempted to fill that role.
Ryder’s stats are distorted by innings of 83 and 73* against Delhi and Chennai respectively. The sad truth is that beyond these efforts he contributed the square root of bugger all. Perhaps hampered by a lingering wrist injury, or by being a massive fatty, Ryder was as culpable of Pune’s poor starts as anyone but is marked up slightly because at least he didn’t waste any time before throwing his wicket away, unlike some others in this list.
With his ever so slightly suspect action Samuels was actually one of the better performers with the ball in the Pune squad. Unfortunately he never contributed anywhere near enough with the bat, which was his primary role in the squad. His departure for the West Indian tour of England ultimately had little impact on Pune’s fortunes, as his spot would have been taken by Michael Clarke in any case.
As a player on the fringes of the Indian ODI team, much was expected from Sharma. Whilst he bowled well on occasion, he was unfortunately yet another who consistently under-performed, often bowling far too short in an effort to achieve variation. He is marked up slightly for his commendable habit of sending the opposition batsman off on the rare occasion he actually managed to snare a wicket.
Whilst those stats look utterly horrific, they’re actually not a fair reflection of Kartik’s contribution. Often required to bowl at both ends of the innings, Kartik maintained an aggressive approach that should have been rewarded with far more wickets than he ultimately acquired. Definitely not the worst performing bowler for Pune this season.
Nominally selected as an all-rounder, Kumar contributed so little with the bat that his contributions in that field can be largely ignored. His bowling was serviceable but lacked any sort of accuracy and consistency and was subsequently little in the way of a threat.
Considering that Uthappa is supposedly Pune’s highest earning player, he vastly underperformed throughout the tournament. Bounced around the batting order in an attempt to find his best position, Uthappa consistently failed to fire; his middling strike rate tells its own story really. His performance behind the stumps was also, to put it politely, extremely inconsistent.
As the first Indian player to score a century in the IPL much might have been expected from Pandey. A score of 80* against Delhi was his only contribution however, as he represented yet another failure in the Pune top-order.
As the most experienced bowler in the Pune team Nehra was expected to lead by example in bowling the tough overs that bookend a T20 innings. Instead a bare handful of good spells were overshadowed by lacklustre performances where he lost his line completely and the opposing batsmen took full toll. Only kept his place in the team as a result of the unfortunate series of injuries suffered by Dinda.
It seemed a baffling decision at the time for Clarke, after 12 months in the T20 wilderness, to opt to play in the IPL. And with the season now over that decision just seems even more baffling. Clarke did little to disprove his critics who claim that he is poorly suited to the demands of this particular format, indeed he only vindicated them. It remains to be seen if he will return to the competition next year. Or if anyone would be willing to pay for his services if so. Personally we highly doubt it.
It’s tempting to be charitable towards Dada, particularly after the revelation late in the tournament by the teams owners that he had wanted to undertake a non-playing mentoring role this season, and had only been pushed into playing on their prompting. This sense of charity only increased when, with three games of the season remaining, Dada seemingly followed the advice we gave here, and stepped aside, handing the captaincy over to Steve Smith.
However any goodwill instantly evaporated when he returned for the next game, just in time to be stumped for a comical first ball duck. We could go on at length about Dada’s performances this season, but we would just be repeating what we stated in the above article. Instead we will just reiterate that everything that went wrong with Pune this season can be traced back to Dada in one form or another. But at least, much like the team’s performance as a whole, Dada can console himself with the fact that he wasn’t the worst player this season. That particular honour falls to…
After an underwhelming season with the Adelaide Strikers in the Australian Big Bash tournament, Ferguson’s acquisition by Pune seemed an odd one. After an opening game when he provided the most comical four overthrows we have ever seen, Pune must have been regretting their impulse signing. Whilst somehow managing to keep both Luke Wright and Tamim Iqbal out of the squad, Ferguson’s performances verged on the utterly horrific. From now on, whenever KP talks of second rate Aussies, we will always think of Callum Ferguson.
It has to be said that the end of the season could not come quick enough for Pune. Nine losses on the trot stands as testament to that. But at least their antics served as an easy introduction into the sometimes confusing world that is the IPL. They can now look ahead to next season, where at least Dada won’t be around to stink the place up further, although they can probably add a couple more zeros to Steve Smith’s asking price. As for us here at 51allout, we’ll probably wrap up how the tournament ends, although that may be dependant on how quickly England can dispose of the West Indies in the second Test. But rest assured we will be back next season for more Pune antics. That is, of course, unless an even bigger team of no-hopers manages to catch our eye.