Hyderabad: Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS), under the fresh leadership of Australian captain Steven Smith, started off their second as well as last Indian Premier League stint as underdogs, following a disastrous IPL 2016 season.
Despite kicking off this edition with an emphatic 7-wicket win over Mumbai Indians (MI), RPS could not find the winning momentum in the initial phase of the razzamatazz cricketing extravaganza. Their key players performed well in separate matches forcing the team management to look for the right combinations eyeing united team efforts in the matches.
They only had one win out of the first four matches, and here came the right decision by the management to include paceman Jaydev Unadkat in the playing XI against Royal Challengers Bangalore at M Chinnaswamy ground. RPS won the match comprehensively by 27 runs as their bowlers successfully saved a modest target of 162 runs.
The transformation in their bowling unit turned out to be the main cause of their redemption in the league. With commendable support from the bowling unit, held by Unadkat, Ben Stokes, Shradul Thakur and Imran Tahir, their big players started to rise on the big occasions to win thrilling encounters.
Be it MS Dhoni’s belligerent 61 not out off 34 balls to win a last-ball thriller against Sunrisers Hyderabad or Ben Stokes’ unbeaten 63-ball 103 against Gujarat Lions to chase down a big target of 162 runs after being restored to 42/4 in 5.3 overs, RPS players pulled out some of the greatest ever performances in a decade long IPL history.
Unadkat has been RPS’s key asset since he joined the team as in the 11 matches played so far, he has bagged 22 wickets this year, helping his team enormously in making it to the final of the cash rich league. Since his inclusion in the squad, RPS has just lost two matches in their next 11 encounters.
In the initial phase of the tournament, Imran Tahir was the only resort for Rising Pune Supergiant whenever they found themselves in pressure situations. Unadkat along with Washington Sudar eased a huge amount of pressure from the Proteas leggie as they bowled aggressively and kept taking wickets at crucial junctures of the matches.
MS Dhoni, apart from played some crucial innings with the bat, has been exceptional behind the wickets and instrumental in brilliant leadership of the squad. Smith might be leading RPS but the former ‘Captain Cool’ has been helping and advising him to take correct decisions in the matches.
Ajinkya Rahane started the season nicely with some quick innings but has failed to continue the momentum. Rahul Tripathi, on the other hand, has played some of the best innings of his life in this season while opening the batting for his team.
Smith, as usual, being one of the best in the business has been performing with the bat, while Stokes, Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary have provided strength to their middle-order.
With Imran Tahir back on national duty, Adam Zampa has got a chance to represent RPS in the final stage of the tournament. Shradul Thakur has also been impressive with the ball this season.
RPS might be playing its last IPL season but it surely has won millions of hearts with the spirited exhibition of Cricket. They have been a team to defeat for Mumbai Indians, which might have topped the points table in the league stage, but is yet to emerge victorious in a match against Rising Pune Supergiant.
The IPL final between Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiant at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium here on Sunday (May 21) is surely going to be a thrilling affair. So, get ready to experience the IPL fever for one last time this year.