When Harshad Khadiwale, Shrikant Mundhe and Ganesh Gaikwad competed during the Maharashtra Premier League at the DY Patil Stadium almost a year ago, the last thing on their minds would have been to return to the picturesque venue as part of an IPL team.
Not only has the unthinkable happened for the trio, the script couldn't have been better. One, they are representing their local IPL franchise — the Pune Warriors India, the most expensive IPL team. And two, they are part of the squad led by Yuvraj Singh, the World Cup's Player of the Tournament.
As the southpaw joined the rest of the Mawlas — the warriors of Chhatrapati Shivaji — for his first practice session with the team on the eve of their IPL tie against Kings XI Punjab, the intensity in the Warriors' practice went up a notch.
With Yuvraj living up to the expectations in the World Cup, expectations will be high from his to replicate the same form in the IPL.No wonder, despite the Warriors being the IPL newbies, they are not very far from being tagged the favourites.
As they face Kings XI Punjab — Yuvraj’s former team now led by Adam Gilchrist — on Sunday, the Warriors, who are the only team not to be playing a single game in their home city, may not enjoy the crowd support.
Not only because of Navi Mumbai's vicinity to Mumbai, the home of the Mumbai Indians, but also because of the presence of Abhishek Nayar and Siddharth Chitnis in the Kings XI Punjab ranks.
But Yuvraj was undeterred by the lack of home support. "Unfortunately, we cannot play a game in Pune this year because the stadium is not ready but let's hope the DY Patil emerges as our real home ground," he said on Saturday.
More than the home advantage, Yuvraj would be thinking of firing against his former team, with whom he shared a topsy-turvy relationship.
After leading KXIP for the first two years, he lost his captaincy in the previous edition due to his tiff with the then coach, Tom Moody, and the owners. It was but natural that neither the owners nor the icon player wanted to continue their association any further.
If Yuvraj gives a rollicking start to the Warriors' campaign, it will be a real homecoming for him in more ways than one.