A match between teams dwelling in the bottom of the points table in the Indian Premier League 2013 can either spur a turnaround in fortunes for the victor or merely act as a temporary soothing balm from a run of defeats.
On the evidence presented so far, Kings XI Punjab and Pune Warriors India have both not inspired enough confidence to make their fans believe in a turnaround but, with two thirds of the tournament still to come, winning the encounter on Sunday (April 21) at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali could act as a good start towards lifting their fortunes.
Both sides are coming off defeats against Sunrisers Hyderabad that will rankle. Pune, in particular, will need to guard against obsessing over how they lost a match in which they were 101 for 4, chasing 120 to win at about a run-a-ball. The only thing for Pune to do is absorb the lessons of the set batsmen finishing the job, and move on. Otherwise they will risk the same thing happening to them again.
The good news for Pune is that Yuvraj Singh, who sat out with back spasms in the last two matches, is available for selection against his former franchise, on a ground he has spent more time on than anyone else on either side and knows intimately. Whether Yuvraj's inspirational presence can lift a sagging batting unit remains to be seen, as does how he holds up given the intermittent match-play he's had so far.
Punjab don't have similar reassurance vis-a-vis Shaun Marsh though. Marsh joined the team on Saturday morning, but will not be available for selection for at least the next two matches.
Both sides' main concern is with the batting units. Neither set of batsmen has fired with any consistency. As Hyderabad have shown, it requires a bowling attack of exceptional ability to bail teams out when that happens. The bowling for Pune and Punjab has been good - even above average - but not spectacular enough to cover up for the batting mishaps.
Punjab have four points from five matches, and even though two of their defeats - against Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad - eventually ended up as fairly close games, they were always fighting to catch up in both matches with the opponents in control. Worryingly for them, Punjab don't even have the batting strength Pune have on paper, or an in-form, current international batsman around whom the batting line-up can rally
Adam Gilchrist, the Punjab captain, hasn't had the best tournament, and while Mandeep Singh, Manan Vohra and Gurkeerat Mann Singh may be fine talents, their performances haven't quite matched their potential. It may be time to rethink Punjab's overseas players make-up, and get in someone like Luke Pomersbach, who can contribute with the bat.
Pune will also ponder over changes in the batting and the candidates under scrutiny are likely to be Manish Pandey and T Suman, who are both short of runs. One of them will sit out when Yuvraj returns in any case, but Pune have travelled without Parveez Rasool, who could have been a good candidate to take the place of the other.
Pune's four overseas players are likely to remain Aaron Finch, Steve Smith, Mitchell Marsh and Angelo Mathews, the captain. Marlon Samuels, who could have challenged for a spot, has still not recovered from injury.
The match might be between two of the bottom-half teams, but if both Pune and Punjab put out their best show, the spectators at Mohali could yet be treated to a high quality contest.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (capt, wk), Azhar Mahmood, David Hussey, David Miller, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Luke Pomersbach, Ryan Harris, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Gurkeerat Mann Singh, Harmeet Singh Bansal, Mandeep Singh, Manpreet Gony, Nitin Saini (wk), Parvinder Awana, Paul Valthaty, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Manan Vohra, Aniket Choudhary, R Sathish, Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Chitnis, Sunny Singh.
Pune Warriors India: Angelo Mathews (capt), Ajantha Mendis, Kane Richardson, Luke Wright, Aaron Finch, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Wayne Parnell, Abhishek Nayar, Ali Murtaza, Anustup Majumdar, Ashoke Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dheeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Harpreet Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Krishnakant Upadhyay, Mahesh Rawat, Manish Pandey, Mithun Manhas, Rahul Sharma, Raiphi Gomez, Robin Uthappa, Shrikant Wagh, T Suman, Udit Birla, Yuvraj Singh.
Story first published on: Sunday, 21 April 2013 00:12 IST