Kane Richardson. US$700 000. The longer we look at those two related pieces of information, the less sense they make. Nothing made sense about the recent IPL auction, but this really topped everything. Richardson is a decent young bowler who made something of an impression in the Big Bash by bowling fast yorkers from well wide of the stumps. He was then called up into the Australian ODI team where, after six good overs, he was red carded for consistently running down the middle of the pitch. Not only that, his back foot was frequently landing outside of the return crease as well, a detail neither umpire managed to pick up on. Richardson has since been removed from competitive cricket entirely as the ‘quirks’ in his delivery are corrected and in the meantime Pune saw fit to throw the aforementioned wad of cash in his direction. Baffling.
But the money isn’t the most bizarre thing. We honestly don’t care who pays the bills at Pune, only as long as they go on paying them, especially the one that puts money in Steve Smith’s pocket. It’s the fact they sought to buy a player like Richardson at all that truly astounds. Pune are the only IPL team to max out their squad size, with 33 players on their books, 11 of them foreign. How the hell that will work in practice we have no idea, especially considering that even with all those players, they still look light on batsmen. With only four foreign players allowed to be selected for any one game, it will be impossible to juggle a squad bloated to such a ridiculous size, and we assume most of them will be spending more time sampling what the Pune nightlife has to offer, rather than playing.
Trying to put together a hypothetical Pune full strength XI, this is what we came up with. Starting with the locals, Yuvraj Singh, Rahul Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Robin Uthappa are all automatic starters. Considering the money spent on Abhishek Nayar he will probably be in there too. That leaves one spot for the rest to fight over. Given the lack of batting options available, perhaps someone like Manish Pandey would be the favourite, although there is the option of adding another bowler such as Ashish Nehra or Murali Kartik. We would suggest against it though. Nehra in particular is just awful these days.
Now for the foreigners, and where things become stupidly competitive. Considering the money spent on them, Ajantha Mandis and Kane Richardson would be expected to feature. Michael Clarke is no-brainer as well, even though he really isn’t very good at T20 cricket, but never mind that, we’re sure he will sell lots of shirts. That leaves one spot to be fought over by the likes of Steve Smith, Luke Wright, Marlon Samuels (if his face transplant has been a success), Tamim Iqbal, Alfonso Thomas, Angelo Mathews and Wayne Parnell. See what we mean? Utterly insane.
A rubbish top order, an amazingly long tail, but at least numbers four and five look pretty good….
One reason perhaps for Pune’s scattergun approach is the fact there just weren’t many good options to choose from in the auction. They were the only team to go in for Clarke, suggesting he was a player they really wanted and would have happily paid far more for him than they did, but beyond that there was precious little on offer to improve their decidedly dodgy batting line-up. The likes of Aaron Finch, Ravi Bopara, and Adam Voges are okay options, but not demonstratively better than anything they have on their books already, and certainly not worth wasting another foreign spot on. If someone of the calibre of, say, Alex Hales had been available then he definitely would have been worth throwing stupid money at. But as it was their hands were tied to an extent and so they have settled for a team that, compared to their competitors at least, is really fairly average.
So what does this mean for your average Pune fanatic, the sort who has a Dinda poster on his wall and dreams of one day watching his heroes in action at the Subrata Roy (we think it was so humble of the team’s founder to name their new stadium after himself) Sahara Stadium? Sadly, contemplating another season of propping up the IPL ladder. If Pune were allowed to play more than four foreigners at a time, and believe us we’re actively petitioning the BCCI to have that restriction raised before the competition begins, they would have one of the best teams going. But since they cannot, and the fact that one of those foreign spots will probably be filled by Kane bloody Richardson, they’re in a world of trouble.
Never fear though, we will be there following Pune every step of the way, both here on the site and on our twitter account, @51allout. That is to say, we’ll be there till we inevitably get bored around halfway through the ridiculously long IPL season, with Pune already confirmed wooden spoon recipients, and find something else to distract ourselves with instead. Like Gloucestershire’s charge to success in the new county season. Now that would be amazing.