Coming into their second Indian Premier League season, the owners of the Pune Warriors did all they could to avoid a repeat of their disastrous debut season. First, they fought tooth and nail with the BCCI to get an extra foreigner into the eleven as the ailing Yuvraj Singh's replacement; then
they did away with last season's black jersey; made many changes in their coaching setup by roping in South Africans Allan Donald and Paddy Upton, who is a mental conditioning coach.
Yet, all these changes seem to have hardly mattered as the league stage enters its concluding phase. With four matches remaining, Pune Warriors India are virtually out of the race for a play-off spot, placed second from the bottom in the nine-team table.
Even though the players tried their best to appear as a motivated unit during their training on Monday, on the eve of their must-win encounter against Rajasthan Royals, one sensed the Warriors had already given up hopes of a miraculous comeback. And considering that the Warriors have lost five games on the trot, their body language was understandable.
However, instead of giving it a shot to remain alive in the tournament, the Warriors should utilise the last phase of IPL V as a stepping stone for next year. And as the first step towards it, they should seriously think of asking their skipper-mentor Sourav Ganguly to wear only the mentor's hat for the last four games.
If you look at the numbers, Ganguly's aggregate of 246 runs from 12 innings isn't that bad for a man who is nearing 40. But considering that those runs have come at just over a run-a-ball, the Warriors have every case of taking a cue from the Deccan Chargers and the Royal Challengers Bangalore, who both asked skippers Kumar Sangakkara and Daniel Vettori to make way for others.
Ganguly's inability to rotate the strike resulted in three losses for his team - against Deccan Chargers at Cuttack, Mumbai Indians at Pune and Kolkata Knight Riders in Kolkata, though he emerged as the team's top run-getter in the last game.
Even though the former India skipper's legion of fans would hate to admit it, Ganguly lasting as a player for the IPL's next edition is as unlikely as Yuvraj Singh featuring in the ongoing edition. So, Ganguly has every reason to put the team's interest first and rest for the last leg of the season. But the Warriors being a unit that's controlled by the former India captain, will he take that step on Tuesday?