Rising Pune Supergiant faltered at the last stage to lose out on the title    BCCI
Rising Pune Supergiant faltered at the last stage to lose out on the title BCCI

It came down to the final ball of the tournament to decide the winner of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017. Mumbai Indians (MI) got the better of Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) in a cliff hanger to win the title for the third time. While MI will comeback in the next edition, RPS’ contract in the mega event has come to a shattering end. The camp took some bold moves prior to the 10th edition. They replaced MS Dhoni with Steven Smith for the top job. Harsh Geonka, brother of RPS-owner Sanjiv Geonka, took indirect digs at Dhoni after RPS’ poor start and garnered negative publicity.

Not many would have reckoned the Men in Purple to make it to the summit clash. However, they silenced their critics by being the first team to qualify for the finale. Till the first half of the decider, it was RPS all the way. Nonetheless, MI brought in their experience of playing on big occasions and edged-past the opposition by a single run.

RPS would still be proud of their overall campaign. They finished second in the just-concluded edition after languishing at the seventh spot in the previous season. Apart from the occasional blitz from their star players, their youngsters performed reasonably well. The communication between Dhoni-Smith in extracting the best in tough times was the highlight of their run. Let us walk through RPS’ campaign rating them on a scale of 1 to 10 based on their performance:

Rahul Tripathi- 7.5 out of 10

RPS commenced their campaign with Ajinkya Rahane opening the innings alongside Mayank Agarwal. However, the move paid no dividends and Rahul Tripathi replaced Agarwal. Rahane and Tripathi stitched some successful partnerships as the latter’s aggressive batting approach complemented Rahane s textbook technique.

Tripathi had four scores in excess of 30, one forty and two fifties, including a fine 95 versus Kolkata Knight Riders. His knack of shimming down the track and altering the bowler s length earned praises from all quarters. The well-timed cuts, pulls and lusty cover drives became a regular feature of his innings. However, the only dent for the 26-year-old was failing to turn the heat in knockout games. In RPS’ last two fixtures, his scores of 0 and 3 proved to be the turning point in Smith and co. missing out on the coveted trophy. Surely, the youngster will learn to hold his nerves in crunch games in the future.

Nonetheless, you can’t ask for more from a newbie in such a big tournament. He finished with 391 runs at a staggering strike-rate of 146.44 and average of 27.92.

Ajinkya Rahane- 6 out of 10

Rahane is a complete player. Or is it? He formed a lethal opening pair with Tripathi, being a shadow of his partner by notching only two fifties. Interestingly, both the half-centuries came in the ‘Maharashtra derby’. He got starts in few other games but failed to capitalise. His strike rate of 118.26 was not impressive as well. Certainly more was expected from the 28-year-old.

Rahane’s fielding was at par as he plucked some difficult chances coming his way. In Qualifier 1, he exhibited sportsmanship by instantly signalling six to the umpires when he felt he had touched the ropes trying to catch the ball towards deep mid wicket.

Rahane also led Pune in one match against Delhi Daredevils (DD) wherein the side succumbed to a 95-run defeat.

Steven Smith (c) – 7 out of 10

Smith was the lynchpin of RPS’ batting order. He began the campaign with an unbeaten 84 against MI. The Australian carried on with his form to amass 387 runs at an average of 39.33. However, the right-hander applied himself at the crease but failed to get runs at rapid pace. With a strike-rate of 121.96, Smith could not break free in most of the games despite being in the middle for long.

Smith led the side well. He rushed to Dhoni in crunch situations for inputs regarding field placements. He was supported by trusted foreign players like Ben Stokes, Dan Christian and Imran Tahir. Youngsters did well under him which shows the faith they enjoyed from Smith and coach Stephen Fleming. RPS managed to get their combination right after a poor start in the league stage and credit goes to Smith and team management.

MS Dhoni (wk)- 6 out of 10

Dhoni had a mixed season. His average and strike rate, 26.36 and 116 respectively, is the lowest for him in the tournament’s history. There were two memorable innings from the former Indian skipper in the 10th edition. A typical MS Dhoni-esque innings, 61 off 44 balls, came against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the group stages. His 26-ball 40, including 5 sixes, against MI in Qualifier 1 ensured his side a place in the final. Overall, he remained inconsistent and will have to add new strokes in his armoury as after years of carnage, bowlers know how to keep him quiet in the death overs.

Talking about his glove-work, Dhoni continued to impress with lightening-fast stumpings (including one against AB de Villiers) and few well-timed catches as well. His catch to dismiss DD’s Marlon Samuels showed his athleticism whereas he continued to dismantle the stumps in a flash. His inputs to help Smith in tight contests were priceless. Surely, he must have had some contribution in employing a straight-ish long off to dismiss Kieron Pollard in the finale. Many youngsters credited Dhoni for their success. His cheekiness with the gloves and unorthodox strategies were essential, but his mavericks with the bat went missing for most parts.

Ben Stokes- 9.5 out of 10

Bought at a whopping price of INR 14.5 crores, Stokes rose to the occasion and was instrumental in leading his side to the playoffs. Even Smith termed him as a ‘perfect fit’ to the team. His absence was felt in the summit clash, but he more than did his job in the group stages. In 12 games, Stokes struck 312 runs at an average of 31.60 and strike rate of 142.98. The left-hander also registered his maiden IPL ton against Gujarat Lions (GL) remaining unbeaten at 103.

Stokes also held his nerves with the ball in tight finishes. He scalped 12 wickets at an economy rate of 7.18. His catch in the league stage against DD stunned the crowds as well. Overall, he had a glorious run in his debut IPL season and did tick all the boxes. He justified the huge price tag attached to his name and earned the ‘Most Valuable Player’ award as well.

Dan Christian- 5.5 out of 10

The Australian was a surprise inclusion in RPS line-up. The all-rounder did not get to do much with the bat, but he was handy with the ball. He scalped 11 wickets at an economy rate of 7.45 and strike rate of 21.81. He resorted to variations, bowled straighter and did not give anything away in the middle overs. He even removed the Pandya brothers in the tournament decider to restrict MI below 130. A four on the final delivery of the match would have earned Christian immortality in fans’ memory. Nonetheless, it was too much to ask from the 34-year-old.

Manoj Tiwary- 7 out of 10

Tiwary handled the middle-order responsibility reasonably well. He smashed 324 runs at an average of 32.40 with two fifties and maintained a healthy strike-rate of 137.28 in 15 games. There were some unnoticed 30s and 40s from the right-hander’s blade as well. Nonetheless, his finishing skills were required on Sunday which would have helped Pune win their first IPL crown.

Washington Sundar- 7.5 out of 10

Ravichandran Ashwin pulled out of IPL 2017 due to sports hernia. This was a big blow to RPS even before their campaign took off. They bought Sundar after a successful run in Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) 2016. He was given full support by the camp and asked to bowl in powerplays. Not having much variations, Sundar stuck to wicket-to-wicket lines and displayed accuracy. He earned 8 wickets at an economy of 6.16 and average of 23.12. He was successful in curbing run-flow against some big names and finished the tournament as the most economical bowler in an IPL final (4-0-13-0).

For a youngster who was only 8-years old during the inaugural season of IPL, Sundar has come a long way.

Jaydev Unadkat- 9.5 out of 10

In 12 matches, Unadkat picked up 24 wickets at an average of 13.41, economy rate of 7.02. This even included a hat-trick and a five-for. Such was the dominance of Unadkat that he single-handedly spearheaded the bowling attack and missed the Purple Cap by 2 wickets. The left-arm pacer bowled in tight lines, hit the deck more often than not, used the slower ones judiciously and held his calm when the going got tough. He was the reason Pune had a joyous ride until the last few overs of the summit clash.

Shardul Thakur- 7 out of 10

Thakur appeared in 12 games picking up 11 wickets at an economy of 8.25. Thakur generated good pace but went wayward from time to time. He needs more control with his line and length but will improve gradually. Thakur was very energetic, competitive on the field and has a bright future as well. With 3 three-fors, he proved to be a vital cog in RPS’ squad.

Adam Zampa- 5.5 out of 10

In 6 games, Zampa got 7 wickets at an average of 23.28 and economy of 8.21. He was not a regular feature in RPS line-up but did a decent job. His two priced-scalps in form of Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard on Sunday helped in restricting MI to 129 for 8. After being hit for a six, Zampa was bold to flight the ball against Pollard and resulted in a wicket as it went to the fielder employed at straight long off.

Imran Tahir- 8 out of 10

RPS’ spin spearhead, Tahir was available for limited games owing to national duties. He got 12 matches and earned 18 wickets at an economy rate of 7.85 and average of 20.50. His strike rate of 15.66 shows how difficult it was for the batsmen to accelerate against him. Barring one game, versus GL, he remained economical throughout his campaign. If RPS missed two players on the big night, it has to be Stokes and Tahir.

Tahir continued to burst into childlike celebrations with every wicket earned and sparked energy into the side during his stay.

Players with minimal appearances:

Mayank Agarwal- 1.5 out of 10

Agarwal was preferred as Rahane’s partner for the opening games, but he failed to deliver. With 26 runs in 3 games, he made way for Tripathi.

Deepak Chahar- 1.5 out of 10

Deepak finished with a solitary wicket in 3 games at an economy of 10.57.

Rahul Chahar- 2 out of 10

The younger of the Chahar brothers, Rahul got 3 games and ended with 2 scalps. His most cherished moment was a stunner to prevent a unique scoop shot from Brendon McCullum at deep third-man. Rahul flew like a bird and stretched himself to the maximum to prevent the ball from sailing over the ropes. His athleticism stunned the entire RPS side as well. He gets an extra point courtesy his fielding.

Ashok Dinda- 0 out of 10

For a bowler who is Mohammed Shami’s mentor (yes, it is true) and was touted as leader of RPS’ pace attack, Dinda was disappointing to say the least. He conceded 119 runs off 60 balls and picked up one wicket in 3 games. With an average of 119 and economy rate of 11.90, Dinda did not show any signs of improvement from IPL 2016.

Faf du Plessis-

The South African Test and T20I captain got only two games. He batted only in RPS’ encounter with DD. He scored 8 runs and hence would be too harsh to rate him.

After all, you cannot rate a player for having endless discussions with commentators on or off the field!

Lockie Ferguson- 3 out of 10

The New Zealander got 4 games under his belt. He picked up 3 wickets at an average of 31.00 and economy rate of 7.15. He was the Man of the Match in the home game versus Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). With figures of 4-1-7-2, Ferguson managed to lead his side to victory in limited appearances. Not a bad effort!

Rajat Bhatia- 1.5 out of 10

The Delhi all-rounder got 3 games and was a no contributor. The only saving grace for the 37-year-old was his economy, i.e. 7.85.

Ankit Sharma- 3 out of 10

Ankit got a start in the only match he featured. Scoring 25 runs, including two fours and a maximum, he promised a lot before departing. With the ball, he conceded 16 runs off the only over he bowled.

Players who remained benched:

Baba Aparajith, Ankush Bains, Ishwar Pandey, Jaskaran Singh, Usman Khawaja, Saurabh Kumar, Milind Tandon