Welcoming Pune’s IPL Team – Sahara Pune Warriors
The ongoing controversy in IPL not withstanding, Pune cricket lovers enthusiastically welcomed the new team in town: Sahara Pune Warriors. Tens of thousands gathered at the S.P. College Grounds yesterday evening for the name and logo unveiling ceremony. The most valuable IPL Team (new franchise bought by the Sahara Group for $370 Million) got a great reception.
A quick poll across friends/colleagues and a look at twitter stream confirms that the name is “ok” – could have been better; but could have been a lot worse! [ E.g. Dare Devils?? Knight Riders?? , etc.] The same goes with the logo. I personally would have preferred something more modern. Though the city’s connection with the ‘Maratha Warrior’ in the logo, is well represented.
What does the team mean for Pune? For starters, it brings world class cricket to Pune. Local talent will get a big opportunity. Pune has never had its share of good cricket – for various reasons. Hopefully, that will be a thing of the past. And yes, IPL will also bring in some great entertainment with it. Cricket purists dislike the excessive focus on entertainment – I too would prefer more focus on cricket, than the peripheral action. But then it is this entertainment that brings the sport to the masses. Just look at how American Sports Leagues(NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) mix the two. The entertainment doesn’t take the focus away from the main sport. The real stars in the American Leagues continue to be the players: Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, or Alex Rodriguez. And the quality of the skill and athleticism are absolutely terrific.
Looking beyond cricket – the fact that Pune got this team, and with such a huge valuation means something else. Finally, Pune as a city is stepping out of the shadows of Mumbai. Pune has always been the cultural capital of Maharashtra – but the economic size and might of Mumbai have always overshadowed Pune. A look at all the original 8 IPL Teams will tell you that all of them are from capital cities. In India, capital cities have always received some ‘special treatment’ when it comes to infrastructure and other development programs – politics (at all levels) contributes to this. In a sense, Pune winning such an expensive franchise is a victory of ‘Economics’. The rapid growth and rising young affluent work force (driven by IT, Automotive and other Business Sectors) was a clear attraction for the various parties bidding for the Pune Team.
The new 55,000 capacity Pune Cricket Stadium (MCA Pune International Cricket Center) being constructed at Gahunje (off Mumbai-Pune Expressway, near Talegaon) will be one of the best in the world. Take a look at the impressive proposed design: http://www.hopkins.co.uk/projects/_3,135/
I can’t wait for next year’s IPL. The new auction will decide which players become part of this team. Especially the Mumbai-Pune games will be really interesting. Over the coming years, I am sure these games will develop into intense rivalries. With Mumbai likely playing some games at the D.Y. Patil Stadium and Pune playing near Talegaon, this will be one classic ‘Expressway’ Contest!