Inconsistent batting and loss of key players through injuries have cost IPL debutants Pune Warriors a place in the play-offs, said team coach Geoff Marsh.
With their play-off hopes dashed, Marsh said his team can still pull the rug from the rivals' feet and spoilt the party of other teams in their remaining two games.
"We can't make the finals, which is disappointing. All we can do is stop other teams from getting there. We want to finish in the best possible way we can, with two wins," Marsh said ahead of Pune's penultimate round-robin clash against Kolkata Knight Riders at the D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.
"The inconsistency with our batting has been disappointing. We just have not batted well enough. I think about five times we have been four down for 40 runs. It's very hard to win a game from there no matter how well the bowlers bowl.
"We have very good players. We have been a little bit unlucky with injuries. We lost some key players whereas other teams have kept their guys going," the Australian said.
Marsh pointed out that Pune lost Ashish Nehra and Angelo Mathews through injuries before the start of the tournament and then missed out on Graeme Smith and Tim Paine, who got hurt during the course of the event.
"We did not have Ashish Nehra and Mathews from the start. Those were two players we wanted to buy at the auction. Callum Ferguson came late (after playing for Australia). We lost Mathews. We lost (Greame) Smith. We also lost (Tim) Paine. They were three of our batters who would have been in the top six and we lost them through injuries," he said.
But these were not good enough excuses for the poor run of the team in the tournament, that saw Pune slump to seven losses in a row after starting off with two straight wins, he conceded.
"No excuses as we have good players in there, but have not scored enough runs," Marsh said. Marsh wants his main batmen like captain Yuvraj Singh and Jesse Ryder to take full advantage of their starts and go on to make 60-plus runs in the remainder of Pune's IPL campaign this season.
"Hopefully Yuvraj can go in there and turn his 30s into 60-plus and Jesse Ryder can go on and convert those starts into big scores like (Adam) Gilchrist, like Shaun (Marsh), like (Sachin) Tendulkar.
"Teams like Chennai are on top because guys like (Michael) Hussey and others are getting not 30s and 40s but 70s and 80s. That's what we have failed to do," he said. The former Australian Test opener, however, did not find fault with the leadership of Yuvraj.
"When you are competing against the opposition you are in the hot house and expected to perform. It's for the batsmen themselves to work out which way they are going to play. We have not batted well enough. It had nothing to do with Yuvraj," Marsh commented. He singled out leg-spinner Rahul Sharma as the find of the tournament from his team.
"I think there's no doubt that (Rahul) Sharma has been absolutely fantastic. He's improved over the last one year and he's been a real find for Indian cricket," he said.
"(South African pacer) Alphonso Thomas has done well for us," Marsh added. The Pune coach also wanted Robin Uthappa to take a leaf out of Yurvaj's approach and bat sensibly instead of trying to take the leather off the ball from the first ball.
"Robin needs to relax a bit. You are playing against world class bowlers. He probably needs to give himself a little more time (before going on the attack). When Yuvraj goes in he plays nice and straight for a couple of overs and then he becomes a very dangerous player," he said.
Asked about Sourav Ganguly's appearance for the Pune outfit against KKR, a team which he was captain of previously, Marsh said the former India captain was very excited about the game.
"He's very excited to playing against his old team. He looks forward to the challenge. He loves being in the middle playing cricket. He has a huge passion for the game, still wants to go there and compete. It will be interesting to see the crowd support," he said.