I am absolutely delighted by the way Pune have opened their IPL campaign. Beating a strong Mumbai side in their own den is not an easy task. Full marks to the team, the way they fought in the match to emerge on the right side of the result. The best part about the win was that it was a complete team effort where every department and every member of the side chipped in with useful contributions. And more often than not, when you are facing a strong side like Mumbai you need every member of the side to put that effort.
On a slightly tricky wicket, despite losing early wickets, Pune managed a fighting total of 129. It looked 20 runs short, but I was very happy to see some sensible batting from Robin Uthappa and Steve Smith to take us there. At that point everyone would have assumed that the hosts, with their strong batting line-up, will walk past this modest total.
Skipper Sourav Ganguly played a masterstroke by introducing the veteran of many battles, Murali Kartik, into the attack at the start and the rewards followed immediately. The dangerous Richard Levi’s wicket was the perfect start and than our new entry, Ashok Dinda, tightened the screws. Thereafter, Mumbai were never allowed to stage a comeback with some disciplined bowling and fielding.
For me, the highlights of this match would be Dinda’s bowling, the spinners’ effective spells and some smart batting by Uthappa. Dinda had an outstanding domestic season and that confidence is very much visible in his bowling. Pune have the right mix in spin, with Kartik bringing in that experience and young Rahul Sharma displaying his talent. Uthappa showed the responsibility that would be much needed from the likes of him and Manish Pandey this season. They have so much talent and if used properly they can do a lot for their side.
Pune’s next match is against Team Mohali, who didn’t start the tournament on the right note. Ajinkya Rahane played a gem of an innings and was really unfortunate to miss out on a well-deserved hundred. But that gave Team Jaipur a massive total to defend. Eight out of 10 times this kind of score settles the match for you unless the other team shows remarkable courage to go past this challenge. But that doesn’t happen very often.
I am very excited to see the first game at our newly-built stadium. I have heard raving reviews about the facilities and can’t wait to see the first IPL game there. The first win against mighty Mumbai will give Pune a lot of confidence. Mohali will try their level best to get their first win of the season. Their skipper, Adam Gilchrist, showed in the last game that he is still very much in touch and has to be stopped upfront.
Despite playing on their home turf, Pune won’t have too much of a home advantage as both teams would have very little idea about the conditions and behaviour of the pitch in the new venue. Pune have started things on the right note and now they have to be persistent with their efforts.