Hardcore cricket lovers do not make much of the effort taken to travel to the stadium for a ‘live’ match experience nor do they disown their team if it performs badly. It’s the game that matters to them the most. Pune too has a mature cricket-watching population that is waiting for the resurgence of its team to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Pune Warriors India, owned by Sahara group, represented the city in IPL in 2011. Back then, we didn’t have our own ground; the D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai served the purpose. But the year 2012 saw the emergence of the stadium at Gahunje in Maval taluka! And that’s how our (checkered) journey in the IPL began.
We even saw the team enter the IPL finals, and play that nail-biting match with Mumbai which it lost by a run!
Sahara withdrew Pune Warriors from IPL in 2013 and for the next three years, the city did not have any representation in IPL. But in 2016, when two other teams were debarred, Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) was born! The Goenka group owned this franchise. We saw them take the renamed MCA stadium at Gahunje as home ground but the tournament was shifted to Visakhapatnam for a month that season due to the severe drought in Maharashtra!
In 2017, the RPS dropped an ‘S’ from its name. It was renamed Rising Pune Supergiant. The MCA stadium remained its home ground. We even saw the team enter the IPL finals, and play that nail-biting match with Mumbai which it lost by a run!
RPS was a team with most players from the present Chennai Super Kings, and Punekars probably connected to CSK for that reason! Wasn’t it a dream when CSK held base in our own city for reasons known to everyone!
Over the years, some players from our city have made a mark in the world’s most attended cricket T20 league! Apla Puneri Kedar Jadhav is the only cricketer to have played a World Cup and is still a part of the CSK franchise! While he continues to make Pune proud, his wife too has launched a page on Facebook called ‘Inside Cricket’ and his brother-in-law owns a sports shop in the city called M3.
Ruturaj Gaikwad, a young talent (23 years), playing for CSK since 2019 to present is another rising star from the city!
Parag More, a proud Punekar, a member of the first winning IPL team of Rajasthan Royals, has cricket training academies running in the city even today.
Harshad Khadiwale, an NMV (Nutan Marathi Vidyalay) student from Pune was also a part of the Pune Warriors in 2011!
Let’s also not forget the contribution by Hrishikesh Kanitkar, also a Punekar, who was an assistant coach to Rising Pune Supergiants for some time!
While the IPL continues in another country, let’s hope to get a Pune team in the near future. But till then, cherish these IPL memories of our team.