Struggling Pune Warriors today got a much-needed fillip with the confirmation that they will have the services of impact player Yuvraj Singh when they cross swords with high-flying Rajasthan Royals in a Pepsi Indian Premier League (IPL) clash here on Thursday.
Yuvraj was fit to play Thursday's game, according to team coach Allan Donald, but Pune will miss West Indian all-rounder Marlon Samuels, who has picked up a groin injury.
The Warriors have lost two matches on the trot thanks to dismal batting efforts.
On the other hand, the Royals go into their second away game after recording a clinically executed and morale-boosting 19-run victory over defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders at home, their second win in as many matches.
Therefore, the Warriors are the underdogs going into the clash and their stuttering batting line-up, which includes proven performers at the international level like Yuvraj, Ross Taylor and Marlon Samuels, needs to buck up and start firing.
Yuvraj pulled out of Pune's first home game on April 7 against Kings XI Punjab at the eleventh hour, after flopping in their campaign opener in Hyderabad against new outfit Sun Risers, complaining of a sore back.
How and when did he sustain the injury is not known and in his absence, the Warriors were restricted to a paltry 99 for nine, which was easily overhauled by Kings XI.
Not only was Yuvraj missed as a main middle-order batsman, the Warriors were also handicapped without his clever left-arm spin bowling in the middle overs.
The Warriors would be happy to get such a key player back after suffering successive defeats.
Pune have been done in by the poor form of their top batsmen who need to contribute significantly if are to outdo the high-flying Royals who shot to the top of the table after stunning KKR.
It's a surprise why Steve Smith, who was one of their players to shine and topped the batting average with a 40-plus figure in the previous edition and even captained the side in a few games, has not got a game yet.
In all likelihood he will replace his under-performing Australian compatriot Mitchell Marsh tomorrow. There is a good chance for another Aussie, Aaron Finch, to get a game in place of the injured Samuels.
Warriors were also let down by the opening pair of Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey in both games.
Captain Angelo Mathews has also not really made a big impact in the two games and he needs to deliver with both bat and ball, along with Abhishek Nayar down the order.
The Warriors have a potentially good attack spearheaded by Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, who impressed in the Test series against Australia.
The Royals, on the other hand, have won two close games against Delhi Daredevils and the Knight Riders and would be keen not to let the winning momentum get arrested.
Skipper Rahul Dravid has shown good touch with a half-century against the Daredevils while Ajinkya Rahane, too, chipped in with useful scores.
Stuart Binny, Dravid's former teammate for Karnataka, has shown his all-round prowess, and the Royals would be quite pleased with the superb efforts of pacer Kevon Cooper in both the matches.
With the temperamental S Sreesanth, slinger Shaun Tait and Sidharth Trivedi, who bagged three wickets in the game against Knight Riders, also in the mix, Royals have a good pace armoury.
But the pace-heavy bowling attack needs to complete its overs quickly, as Dravid will be in even bigger trouble after copping a fine of USD 20,000 for his bowlers not maintaining the required over-rate against the Knight Riders.