Mathews is a leader who commands respect for his all-round ability in all formats of the game
Pune Warriors India (PWI) is a team in transition, from one captain to another.
Sri Lankan all-rounder Angelo Mathews is the fourth skipper in a side approaching its third Indian Premier League season. Steve Smith, Sourav Ganguly (2012) and Yuvraj Singh (2011) were others who held the reins.
In an event where assertive leaders set the tone in winning sides — from Shane Warne (Rajasthan Royals), Adam Gilchrist (Deccan Chargers), M.S. Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings) to Gautam Gambhir (Kolkata Knight Riders) — this experiment with captaincy hindered PWI’s progress into a confident unit.
The players didn’t know what to expect from captains as diverse as an instinctive Yuvraj in 2011 and strong-willed Ganguly next year. The former is a limited-overs specialist whose game lost the spark under the weight of captaincy. The latter was appointed by Sahara India for man-management rather than T20 skills.
Leading by example
Smith was put in charge and asked to find a way out of the mess in IPL-V. The aggressive Aussie tried to lead by example, averaged 40.22 in 15 innings and a strike rate of 135.58, but could not lift the sagging morale of the team. The Pune franchise had by then drifted so far that sinking to the bottom was inevitable.
Now Mathews is in the hot seat as the second choice captain, due to Michael Clarke’s injury after being named skipper. PWI has a leader who commands respect for his ability in all formats of the game. Sri Lanka’s T20 captain will benefit from bowling coach Allan Donald’s promotion to PWI head coach.
The South African pace spearhead is adept at working with young tearaways. PWI has in Wayne Parnell, Ashoke Dinda and Bhuvneshwar Kumar exponents of pace and swing. The first three worked with Donald during IPL-V.
The West Indies’ Marlon Samuels is an ace in the PWI ranks, making rivals rethink tactics with his brutal strokeplay.
Yuvraj’s return to T20 action, after one year of physical and emotional turmoil, can have an effect on the side. The decision to spare him from leadership responsibility is a wise one, leaving the exciting left-hander free to seal his stamp on IPL-VI.
Steve Smith is another T20 specialist of the Yuvraj type, useful spinner, hard-hitting batsman and electrifying fielder. His T20 experience with Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash was reflected in quick adjustment to the Indian conditions.
Apart from Yuvraj and Smith, others able to influence a match outcome are opener Robin Uthappa, middle-order mainstay Mithun Manhas, strokeplayer Ross Taylor and leg-spinner Rahul Sharma.
Pune released experienced slow bowler Murali Kartik, leaving the spin section to be manned by off-spinner Ajantha Mendis, supported by Yuvraj and Smith.