Poor record against Maharashtra neighbours notwithstanding, Mumbai start the IPL final as favourites. They have good balance, are packed with. match-winners and have won two finals before. Pune, meanwhile, have proved doubters wrong at every turn. Who will have the last laugh?
HYDERABAD: If there is one team that has emerged as the Marvel superhero ‘Colossus’ in this season of the Indian Premier League, it has been the Mumbai Indians. They have been caught in tricky situations many times but emerged with heads held high on most occasions. But, for every ‘Goliath’, there is a ‘David’.
And in the last 45 days, Rising Pune Supergiant, under the leadership of Steve Smith, have donned that role against their opponents from Maharashtra — winning all three matches between the teams.
Other than Pune, only Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab have been able to topple the two-time champions. Under the leadership of the stylish Rohit Sharma, the boys in blue have had a phenomenal run.
On the other hand, as their name suggests, Pune have risen after starting their campaign on a sour note, where they could manage only one win in the first four encounters. What followed were a few changes in their playing eleven and a big change in the results as they registered nine wins in their last 11 matches.
While the core of the Mumbai side has revolved around the same bunch of players like the Pandya brothers and Jasprit Bumrah to name a few, Pune have made a number of changes as the tournament progressed.
Unadkat making a mark
At the start youngsters like the Chahar brothers were given a chance, but soon it was a different set of youngsters making a mark. Out of that lot, a left-arm pacer stuck his neck out. Playing for the first time in RPS’s fifth match, Jaydev Unadkat went on to capture 22 wickets to be second on the Purple Cap list. His hat-trick in the ultimate over against SRH at the latter’s home ground produced one of the most spectacular last overs in IPL’s history as Pune became the only side to breach the Uppal fortress this time.
And Ravichandran Ashwin’s absence was Washington Sundar’s gain as the 17-year-old impressed everyone with his level-headed attitude. All of this coupled with the exuberance of Ben Stokes (312 runs, 12 wickets) and Imran Tahir pushed the team to the fore. Their absence might be felt on Sunday when they face Mumbai in the IPL 10 final.
A day ahead of the grand finale, Rohit hailed the team effort that his side has showcased till now. “This season has not been about individual brilliance. Different guys have raised their hands on different occasions with responsibility,” the MI skipper said on Saturday.
He and former RPS captain MS Dhoni have won several T20 titles on the big stage (IPL, World T20, Asia Cup, CLT20) and it would be intriguing to witness who grabs a seventh personal trophy at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
In terms of numbers, this hasn’t been a great season. Tally of 309 so far is his lowest in a single edition. Strike rate of 123.10 isn’t great either. However, the Mumbai skipper has stepped up on crucial occasions. Man of the Match in the final triumph in 2015 for smashing 50 off 26 against Chennai Super Kings, he is a big match player.
Another consistent performer, the fast bowler has been instrumental in his team’s progress. Ability to contain by getting batsmen out sets him apart. Having gained control over the yorker, has added other variations as well. The Super Over against Gujarat changed the mindset of the team.
Most teams would be happy with one in-form all-rounder who can do the big hitting lower down and also deliver with the ball, but in Pandya brothers Krunal and Hardik, Mumbai have two. The elder has been miserly with his left-arm spin (ER of 6.72), and in the second qualifier, struck an unbeaten 45 on a two-paced wicket.
While the exploits of Ben Stokes and Imran Tahir received attention, the Bengal batsman has been Pune’s unsung hero. A stabilising force in the middle order, he is coming into the final on the back of two straight half-centuries, and his strike rate of 139.03 proves he can go after the bowlers as well.
Slightly low key for a while, even missed a game due to illness, but made up when he got going. Having spent a long time in India from the Test series, would like to depart on a high. No shortage of experience in performing in big games and this is the wicket Mumbai will target.
A hero of Pune’s win over Mumbai in Qualifier 1. Bowling quicker and maintaining a tight line, the 17-year-old off-spinner cramps batsmen for space and doesn’t let them get under the ball. Has so far not been overawed by the occasion or big names. If the Tamil Nadu lad continues in the same vein, is likely to reap dividends.