On Sunday Rising PuneSupergiant who are led by the flamboyant Australian Steve Smith will feature in their first ever IPL final as they lock horns with two-time champions Mumbai Indians.
Here are some reasons why the Sanjiv Goenka co-owned franchise can lift the coveted trophy:
MS Dhoni peaking at the right time
The former India captain who led the Pune Supergiant last year had a low key tournament till the first qualifier where he exploded into form. The man from Ranchi got off to a subdued start, struggling to time the ball properly.
At once stage with Manoj Tiwary at the other end also struggling to find boundaries it looked like Pune would struggle to get to 140 but then Dhoni suddenly started like a person possessed.
By the time the innings ended Dhoni had hit five massive sixes and contributed 40 of just 26 balls to his team’s total. What was amazing was that the 35-year-old hit four sixes against the likes of Mitchell McClenagan and Jasprit Bumrah, who have been brilliant in the death this year for Mumbai Indians.
Today, the day of the final if he does replicate the same, the Supergiants might just end up on the winning side for the very first time.
Steve Smith’s captaincy
Australia’s tour to India which preceded the IPL has had a big impact on Steve Smith’s captaincy. The series has made him a tougher and better leader. The mistakes he made during those Test matches (like claiming a drop ball as catch) hasn’t been repeated in this tournament.
Now that has bore fruit for him in the IPL. The Aussie has been smart and wily and has had no second thoughts about bowling youngsters like Washington Sundar in the powerplay.
Also, whenever he has been in need of advice, he has run up to MS Dhoni behind the wickets. The camaraderie between the two has been one of the biggest highlights of the season for the franchise.
Washington Sundar’s bowling upfront
Not many spinners have the skillset or the mindset to bowl in the first six overs of a T20 game. But the 17-year-old who came in as a replacement for the mighty Ravichandran Ashwin has been quite a revelation in the powerplay.
The youngster has been miserly and has picked up crucial wickets at times when his team has needed early breakthroughs the most. For a young spinner he has had a wonderful economy rate of 6.61 to go alongside his eight scalps in the tournmanent so far.
Because of his contributions RPS have not looked a bowler short even after the departure of bowlers like Imran Tahir and Ben Stokes.
If everything goes according to plan we will see him once again the powerplay today, trying to outfox the Mumbai Indians batters.
Rahul Tripathi’s fiery starts
If Rahul Tripathi can deliver today in perhaps the biggest game of his life, he will remember this IPL forever. The Maharashtra batsman has been in quite brilliant form this season, helping his team get off to fliers with quickfire 20s and 30s.
His best innings has been a match-winning 93 against KKR and ideally he would want to replicate something similar today. If he gets going, it might get difficult for the Mumbai Indians to stop him.