Steven Smith (r) took over RPS’ reins from MS Dhoni (l) © AFP
Steven Smith (r) took over RPS’ reins from MS Dhoni (l) © AFP

Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) coach Stephen Fleming has sought to dispel rumours of a rift between stalwarts MS Dhoni and Steven Smith as they chase their maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) title in Sunday’s final against the Mumbai Indians (MI). RPS and MI will take on each other in the IPL 2017 final at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal, Hyderabad. While MI will be eyeing their record third title, Pune will look to sign-off from the league on a title-winning note. On the eve of the big final, Fleming said the duo’s “outstanding” relationship was key to the Supergiant’s success this season, despite persistent grumblings of disunity between the pair. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) vs Mumbai Indians (MI) – Final

“Between the two of them it has been outstanding,” Fleming told reporters on Saturday in Hyderabad, where the final will be battled out. “Much (has been) made of the relationship. Certainly sitting with them, it has been influential for the youngsters, beneficial for the senior players, and it has been helpful for me. So it has been (a) great dynamic to be part of,” he added.

Dhoni, an Indian batting legend and the IPL‘s most successful ever captain, led Pune in their debut season last year but was replaced this edition by Australian captain Smith. Rumoured difficulties between the pair were blamed for the Supergiant’s hot and cold form early in the season, but the chatter petered out as the side came into their own later on.

Fleming, a former New Zealand captain, also defended Dhoni this season, despite his renowned finishing power appeared subdued. “Dhoni is one of the most successful players in the last decade to have played. Another opportunity to win the final for him,” Fleming said of Dhoni, with whom he has closely worked since the IPL’s inception in 2008, being the head coach of Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings (CSK).

“He [Dhoni] is up for it, very motivated. It has been good this year, he has played some cameo roles. He has been criticised for not doing as much, but what you have to appreciate is how good he was when he was doing it time and time again.”

Dhoni played some crucial knocks for the Supergiant, including his 26-ball unbeaten 40 against Mumbai in the first qualifier of the playoffs.