After grasping all our attention for near about two months, the cricketing carnival of Indian Premier League (IPL) is set for a grandeur climax with Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) and Mumbai Indians (MI) fighting in the final of the competition to be played at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad on Sunday, May 21.
Steve Smith led Pune Supergiant on Tuesday became the first contender to reach the finals after they defeated Mumbai Indians by 20 runs in the first Qualifier.
Mumbai being the points table leaders got another shot at the title clash and defeated Kolkata Knight Riders in the second Qualifier on Friday with a comprehensive six wickets win after bowling out Gautam Gambhir led KKR for a meager 107 runs at M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
Besides the coveted IPL 2017 trophy, the winning team of the closing game will also pocket an astounding Rs 28.8 crore while the runners-up will claim handsome Rs 12.9 crore.
For the uninitiated, there is no dearth of cash in IPL — the most lucrative T20 league of the world — who will also be handing Rs 6.4 crore each to the 3rd and 4th team in the playoffs — being Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and Kolkata Knight Riders.
Having started the IPL campaign on a scratchy note, Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) has overhauled their fortune full circle by reaching the final of IPL 2017 as compared to their outing last season — finished second last on the points table with 10 points from 14 matches.
The phenomenal rise of RPS visibly runs coextending with more and more games they have played this season.
Even the likes of Ben Stokes took his time to adjust to the team before catapulting match winning performances in the crucial games for RPS — Stokes has left to join England Cricket team for national duty.
In the first qualifier, RPS overcame the deficit of Stokes with disciplined bowling but once again exposed their vulnerability after their batting order failed to register a safe total on the board — Pune Supergiant scored only 162 runs; courtesy to late match saving blitz by MS Dhoni. Coach Stephen Fleming must be a much-relieved man after withstanding that scare.
The reason for RPS win against Mumbai goes to the astute discipline of their bowlers.
Young Washington Sundar took account of the pitch and broke Mumbai Indians apart to write his best performance of the IPL.
The 17-year old, right-arm off break spinner took 3 crucial wickets (Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Kieron Pollard) while giving away just 16 runs to open the floodgates for MI.
He was very well backed by RPS leading wicket taker Jayadev Unadkat — 22 wickets in 11 matches — with a tight spell and 1 wicket.
Daniel Christian, Adam Zampa, Shardul Thakur were also conducive in preventing the Mumbai Indians from getting get back on foot during the intermediate overs of the game.
With advantage RPS, Steve Smith and unit will come into the game with their chin up after having knocked Mumbai Indians at all the three times they came face to face this season.
However, the batting line up of Pune Supergiant still endures a rough patch with an old dispel bothering them the entire season.
Pune despite the batting stalwarts in the squad seems to buckle under pressure during untimely exit of a set batsman — providentially, someone has always stood up for the cause like MS Dhoni did in the last game.
Ahead of the final, the direction and expectations from Coach Stephen Fleming will be simple and subtle — each player needs to chip in as per their role.
Let us also break it for them:
Opening the batting Rahul Tripathi and Ajinkya Rahane look good but fail to convert their start to a big score.
While Tripathi (388 runs in 12 matches) will have to accelerate the Pune inning with controlled aggression; Rahane (338 runs in 15 matches) will be required to keep rotating strike and anchor his wicket in the middle.
Captain Steve Smith will bat at number three slot and will have to play the most of the middle overs to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Batting down the order Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary will have to share the burden of a strong finish for the team.
The duo might as well have to play a restrained inning if Pune Supergiant endures another batting wreck up in the order.
Big matches have always been the podium for Dhoni to shine. The wicketkeeper-batsman has time and again stepped up for the team during principal games.
Pune does not have a very extensive batting line-up though Daniel Christian and Adam Zampa can blow some biggies if in the arc. RPS will have to warrant a big total on the board against robust and experienced Mumbai Indians who are very much capable of driving riots within a fraction of the time.
An uncomplicated recipe that made the minnows of last IPL edition one of the finalists this year — they have lost together and are eager to win together this time around.
Mumbai Indians first met Rising Pune Supergiant on April 6 in their first league game of this season and lost the match by 7 wickets inspite of posting 184/8 at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
While the win for RPS was a fresh start after their disappointing ‘wooden spoon’ award last year; it was fair to understand that the two times IPL winners Mumbai was serving their conventional part — they have always been the late starters in the IPL.
This was different though, after suffering a loss in their first game, Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai Indians catapulted a nerve wrecking turnaround and won 6 matches on a trot — against Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Gujarat Lions, Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils.
Right when it appeared that Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai might ruin everyone’s game and collect the required points to qualify for the playoffs, their winning streak met with a familiar face — Rising Pune Supergiant and Mumbai Indians lost again.
Having lost at all the three encounters so far, the million dollar question for Mumbai is — How to get past Rising Pune Supergiant juggernaut?
They almost had Pune under their spell in their last encounter until Dhoni blasted severe blows in the pivotal death overs — Mumbai leaked 41 runs to RPS off the last two overs.
Let us break the way that Mumbai Indians will want to take against Pune Supergiant:
Mumbai Indians owe their success this season to the consistently good starts that their openers have been giving them.
Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons might not be among the top run-getters in the IPL, but they have been successfully able to weather the storm during the Power Play overs without losing wickets.
Their stay in the wicket is laced with careful hitting by Parthiv (391 runs in 15 matches) while Simmons (134 runs in 6 matches) on the other hand takes the action back to the opposition bowlers with his free flowing clean strikes.
Batting at number three, Rohit Sharma still looks edgy and lacks the old destructive touch. Cleary the team and fans ask more out of the stylish right-handed ‘Hitman’ in the last game of this season.
In the middle order, Mumbai’s decision of dropping Nitish Rana for the experience of Ambati Rayudu looks to be misfiring. Rana with 333 runs in 13 matches can be picked once again for the decisive match against Pune Supergiant.
Mumbai will be happy with the way Kieron Pollard has batted throughout the season. The big-hitting batsman — 378 runs 16 matches — is an absolute bonus besides that he can bowl and field as well.
Pollard’s contribution to the team is also helping the Pandya brothers (Hardik and Krunal) to evolve and express unobstructedly during the death overs of the game.
Together Hardik and Krunal have scored 436 runs and scalped 16 wickets — certainly, the award for the leading thriving siblings goes to Pandya brothers.
Mumbai Indians has a very defined and mature bowling attack when corresponded to Pune Supergiant.
With Mitchell McClenaghan uncertain to play due to an injury, the pace attack of Mumbai will be spearheaded by Mitchell Johnson, Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah.
The man of the hour for Mumbai Indians is Karn Sharma who has conferred a very strong case for himself with a match-winning performance — 4 wickets for 16 runs — against KKR on Friday.
It will be fascinating to see if Rohit Sharma goes with the experience of Harbhajan Singh (8 wickets in 11 matches) or chooses to reward the right-arm legbreak bowler for the final match.
Rohit Sharma and squad has been ruled out by Steve Smith-led Rising Pune Supergiant on three occasions. There will be no better way to celebrate their third IPL title then to hold it over Pune on May 21.
Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad is one of the flat wickets in the country that hosts international matches.
Both the skippers Steve Smith and Rohit Sharma will like to bat first and enroll a good total on the board on a track that has a tendency to slow down during the second innings.
Having said that, both Mumbai and Pune has an array of batting stalwarts to make any pitch report look ridiculous when they are on the charge.
For a short closure, we are certainly up for a riveting contest of bat, ball and cricket as soon as the Umpire says the word ‘play’ tonight.