Poor form, injuries, questionable selections, failure to find the right team composition and inability to close out games has meant that Pune Warriors India and Delhi Daredevils have had similar fates in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013.
Tied at six points at the bottom of the table, they will play their last match at Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium in Pune on Sunday (May 19) with the sole objective of avoiding the wooden spoon, which both teams have earned in the past. In 2011, Delhi finished last and in 2012, Pune ended at the bottom of the table. Neither team would want to do it again.
If performances in their last outings are anything to go by, Pune would be the favourites. They put up a spirited show to beat Kolkata Knight Riders by seven runs in Ranchi on May 15; the execution of plans exactly what they would have liked to accomplish earlier in IPL VI.
Robin Uthappa and Aaron Finch, Pune's two best batsmen, provided the platform with a solid opening partnership and then Manish Pandey and Yuvraj Singh took the team to a good score before the bowlers held their nerves - on the face of a Yusuf Pathan onslaught - to finish the job. Pandey, who was the first Indian to score a century in the IPL in 2009 and was earmarked for bigger things, batted with freedom after a long time and it brought out the best in him.
In fact, with some of the best Twenty20 players in their line-up, the expectations from Pune were huge, but nothing went to script for them. If Pune's failure to improve on their performances from the last two seasons has been mysterious, then Delhi's fall from grace, after being one of the top teams last season, has been surprising.
In their last match against Kings XI Punjab, which they lost by seven runs, Delhi looked drained and squandered an opportunity to earn a couple of rare points. They have let opponents off the hook regularly and it might be a little far-fetched but not entirely off the mark to suggest that David Warner's recent Twitter tirade against two Australian journalists was a result of his frustration.
The last time the two teams met, in Raipur, Warner took centrestage with an unbeaten 51 as Delhi went on to post 164 for 5. Pune were very much in the game till the end with two fifty-run partnerships, before Umesh Yadav dismissed Luke Wright and Yuvraj in a space of four balls to give Delhi a 15-run win.
Memories of that game will be fresh, but after having suffered 12 losses each, it will eventually boil down to the character shown by the players on Sunday.
At one level, the players will be in a hurry to wrap up the final assignment before taking some time off, and at another level, there will be a sense of bewilderment at how a year's planning went pear-shaped for them in a matter of days. Therefore, the team that focuses better and is hungrier will hold the edge.
Pune Warriors India: Aaron Finch (capt), Robin Uthappa (wk), Manish Pandey, Yuvraj Singh, Luke Wright, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Rahul Sharma, Ajantha Mendis, Kane Richardson, Mitchell Marsh, Abhishek Nayar, Ishwar Pandey, Parvez Rasool, T Suman, Shrikant Wagh, Angelo Mathews, Wayne Parnell, Ali Murtaza, Anustup Majumdar, Eklavya Dwivedi, Harpreet Singh, Dheeraj Jadhav, Mahesh Rawat, Mithun Manhas, Krishnakant Upadhyay, Raiphi Gomez, Udit Birla.
Delhi Daredevils: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Unmukt Chand, David Warner, Virender Sehwag, Kedar Jadhav (wk), Irfan Pathan, Johan Botha, Siddarth Kaul, Morne Morkel, Shahbaz Nadeem, Umesh Yadav, Ashish Nehra, Roelof van der Merwe, Jeevan Mendis, Andre Russell, Naman Ojha, Manprit Juneja, Ajit Agarkar, Royston Dias, CM Gautam, Yogesh Nagar, Sujit Nayak, Pawan Negi, Aristh Singhvi, Bharath Chipli.