Indian Express: Cricket-crazy Puneites have a reason to cheer as they will get to watch real-time heroes like Yuvraj Singh, Graeme Smith, Robin Uthappa and Ashish Nehra. From ordinary gulli cricketers, fans to former players, they believe that the stars representing Sahara Pune Warriors in IPL matches in Pune will spin a whole new cricket atmosphere in the city.
A cricket stadium being built by Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) at Gahunje village near Somatne Phata along the Pune-Mumbai Expressway is expected to be ready by March.
Sahara Pune Warriors sprung a surprise on Day One of the IPL auction in Bangalore on Saturday by buying Robin Uthappa for a whopping Rs 9.66 crore. “Uthappa is a great Twenty20 player and he can also keep wickets. We also thought of his utility as a batsman and that is why we bid that money on him,” Pune team CEO Sushanto Roy said in Bangalore.
On the other hand, out-of-form Yuvraj Singh was bought for Rs 8.16 crore and South African captain Graeme Smith for Rs 2.30 crore. The auction will continue on Sunday.
MCA officials and former cricketers felt at least four-five players from Maharashtra team would make it to the team. “They have already signed contracts, but their names have not been declared. I am sure more than four players from Maharashtra team will make it to the Warriors,” said Riaz Bagwan, MCA’s tournament committee chairman.
Chandu Borde, former player and chairman of BCCI’s selection committee, said the selection of players like Yuvraj, Uthappa, Smith and Nehra augured well for the team. “Yuvraj is an all-rounder, and so is Uthappa who can bat and keep wickets as well. Cricket fans in Pune will get to see quality players and matches, and that too from close quarters.”
Former Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar, who is busy grooming city cricketers through the Varrac Academy at Wakad, also praised the selection of players. “Both Yuvraj and Uthappa have been trained under one of our academies. Both are good strikers and match winners to boot.” He added that IPL matches happening in Pune and big time players descending here would motivate youngsters.
India’s cricket selector Surendra Bhave said the choice showed that the franchises went for match-winners. “As a Puneite, I am happy that fans in the city will get to see international players and high quality matches.” He added that he was sure the MCA would ensure that the stadium was ready in time for the matches.
Raju Kotwal, a former spinner who played in MCA matches, said the IPL matches would benefit many budding cricketers. Aatish Padankutty, a young fan from Ambegaon, was elated. “I have already told my uncle that I would like to watch all the IPL matches and he should ensure tickets for me.”
But who should be captain? While Vengsarkar said Smith should lead as he was already the captain of South Africa, Borde said it would be difficult to say unless you know the entire team.