In its short existence, Pune Warriors, the youngest and costliest IPL franchise, has been in the news for various off-field reasons. The unavailability of their star player Yuvraj Singh due to illness precipitated a crisis in Indian cricket as the franchise owner, the Sahara Group, pulled out of its sponsorship of the national team and also put the franchise up for sale after disagreements with the BCCI. After confusion, uncertainty and negotiations, they decided to stay on as both, India team sponsors and Warriors owners.
Warriors didn't have much to show for their debut season last year. They finished second from the bottom and had a disappointing run of seven straight losses. Their batsmen failed to fire and they won only when their bowlers were able to restrict the opposition and set up modest chases. They were the only franchise whose 'home' stadium was anything but. Situated in Nerul, adjacent to Mumbai on the highway that leads to Pune, the DY Patil Stadium was the Warriors' base.
A spanking new stadium beckons this season. The Sahara Stadium on the outskirts of Pune will be the Warriors' new and permanent home. Getting to the ground will be an achievement for Pune residents, though.
Warriors suffered last season from the failure of their top order to fire, leaving too much to do for the likes of Yuvraj and Robin Uthappa. Yuvraj came in too late on many occasions, with Warriors already out of the game. That cannot be improved upon this season, with Yuvraj's absence.
Sourav Ganguly can be expected to be tactically better as captain than Yuvraj was, but it would be unrealistic to expect him to have a similar impact with the bat. Twenty20 batting has not been Ganguly's strength. A career strike-rate of 108.64 and an average of 27.00 in the format reflect that. Can Ganguly's leadership inspire Warriors? That they have a meatier squad this time should help. Tamim Iqbal, Marlon Samuels, Angelo Mathews and Luke Wright add lots of power to the batting. These additional resources make the bowling look thin in comparison, but on the evidence of last year, that wasn't the bigger problem area for Warriors.