The venue for the Maharashtraderby is Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad © BCCI
The venue for the Maharashtraderby is Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad © BCCI

The state of Maharashtra has a special place in Indian cricket. The state boasts of three domestic cricket sides — Mumbai, Maharashtra and Vidarbha. Last year, a majority of the home matches for Mumbai and Pune had to be shifted because of drought. Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017: After 59 matches, we have the two finalists, the sides from Maharashtra — Mumbai Indians (MI) and Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) — tussling for the trophy. The venue for the Maharashtraderby is Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) vs Mumbai Indians (MI) – Final

In a way, it is only fair that two of the best sides in the tournament are clashing for the final. Mumbai finished on top and Pune at the second spot. However, to Pune’s advantage, they have completed a hat-trick of wins against the most balanced unit in the tournament. MI start favourites against a Ben Stokes-less RPS side but haven’t we said this before…

Head-to-head

For some inexplicable reasons, Mumbai have failed to crack the Pune code. Or it may be the case that Pune had reserved their best against their neighbours. RPS have won four out of the five games against MI thus far.

RPS finished seventh in the last edition thanks to MS Dhoni-six off the last ball, which prevented them the last spot. Having won one out of their first four matches this season, they bagged nine wins from their next 11 encounters.

“You really need to peak at the right time in tournaments like this,” RPS skipper Steven Smith is spot on.

News from the centre

Hyderabad has dished out batting-friendly surfaces this year with 170 being the average. Win toss and bat first may not be wrong move here. In this season, five out of seven times the team batting first has won the contest here.

Ben Stokes, the highest-paid overseas player ever in IPL, played a crucial role in RPS’ qualification to the playoffs, from where they took a shorter route to the summit clash. Stokes’ absence will continue to hurt RPS and the decision they will need to ponder over is the replacement. Should they continue with Lockie Ferguson’s extra pace or strengthen the batting with Usman Khawaja?

Mumbai too, have enough to worry about. Lendl Simmons has not really fired and therefore Jos Buttler will be missed. It would not be an unwise decision to have Rohit Sharma open the innings with Nitish Rana coming back in the middle-order. Play three overseas players if need be.

Also, there will be a dilemma between the choosing of the Mitchells. Mitchell McClenaghan’s injury has been an opening for Mitchell Johnson, who has done reasonably well as a replacement. So who to go for will be a question MI will be scratching their head over?

Likely XIs

Karn Sharma’s match-winning feat in Qualifier 2 against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will see him earn a spot ahead of the veteran Harbhajan Singh. Also to Karn’s advantage, he knows the venue well having previously played for Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).  Asela Gunaratne could have added more to MI’s batting armoury but an IPL finale might not be the right spot to hand someone debut. Johnson should only play if McClenaghan continues to remain unfit.

Mumbai Indians Probable XI: Parthiv Patel (wk), Rohit Sharma (c), Nitish Rana, Ambati Rayudu, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Mitchell McClenaghan, Karn Sharma, Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah

RPS will not want to tinker with their winning combination that upset MI at Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday. However, they are a batsman short and the onus lies on the top four (Rahul Tripathi, Ajinkya Rahane, Smith and Manoj Tiwary) to provide the stability in the middle.

Meanwhile, this will be a big game for Adam Zampa, who has the massive boots of Imran Tahir to fill in. Not very far from Hyderabad, in Visakhapatnam, Zampa had claimed a six-for last season.

Rising Pune Supergiant XI: Rahul Tripathi, AjinkyaRahane, Steven Smith (c), Manoj Tiwary, MS Dhoni (wk), Dan Christian, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Lockie Ferguson, Jaydev Unadkat, Adam Zampa

Key Clashes

MS Dhoni vs Rohit Sharma: This is Rohit’s fourth IPL final, while Dhoni’s seventh. In fact, every time Mumbai have played an IPL final they have found Dhoni in the opponent. Rohit has won three IPL as a player, two for MI. This is Dhoni’s chance to equalise Rohit.

Jaydev Unadkat vs Hardik Pandya: Hardik Pandya has been sensational at the end. Meanwhile, Unadkat will be bowling a few at the death. Can Hardik meet out a treatment to Unadkat that he dished out to Ashok Dinda? If Unadkat bags another five-for, the Purple Cap will be his.

Manoj Tiwary vs Karn Sharma and Krunal Pandya: Tiwary was guilty of slowing things down in the previous game, especially against the MI spinners. He did score a crucial fifty but this time around, he will have to step up against the street-smart MI spinners. While Karn has kept Harbhajan out of MI XI, Tiwary has been one of the most consistent performers for RPS. However, against Krunal his strike rate this season is a low 83.

Washington Sundar vs Ambati Rayudu: The 17-year-old off-spinner foxed the experienced Rayudu in the Qualifier 1 as the latter departed for a duck. Expect a vengeance time.

Steven Smith vs Jasprit Bumrah: Bumrah is amongst the smartest bowlers in limited-overs cricket. He has bowled the most in the last five overs this season. He excelled in Super-Over. His 3-1-7-3 against KKR in the second qualifier swung things in MI’s favour. Smith meanwhile is one of the finest batters in the world. How they counter each other will determine a chunk of this contest.

Ajinkya Rahane vs Mumbai Indians: Yes. Rahane may not have scored the desired runs this season (338 at 24.14 and SR of 118.6) but against MI he has a knack of picking up his game. He has already scored two fifties against MI this season. His overall numbers against MI reads — 224 runs at an average of 56 and a strike rate of 143.6.

Pune, whose two-year run along with Gujarat Lions (GL) ends this season, may well play their last game in IPL. They were denied an extension by the governing council early this month. We do not know what will happen to the team once Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) return but this is their chance to create history.

For Mumbai, if they bag this crown, they will eclipse KKR and CSK and end up being the only side with three titles to their name.

Squad

Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (c), Parthiv Patel (wk), Nicholas Pooran (wk), Krishnappa Gowtham (wk), Ambati Rayudu (wk), Lendl Simmons (wk), Kulwant Khejroliya, Karn Sharma, Saurabh Tiwary, Asela GunaratneMitchell Johnson, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell McClenaghan, Shreyas Gopal, Siddhesh Lad, Vinay Kumar, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Tim SoutheeLasith Malinga, Jagadeesha Suchith, NitishRana, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Jitesh Sharma, Deepak Punia

Rising Pune Supergiant: Steven Smith (c), MS Dhoni (wk), Mayank Agarwal, Baba Aparajith, Ankush Bains, Ankit Sharma, Rajat Bhatia, Deepak Chahar, Daniel Christian, Rahul Chahar, Ashok Dinda, Lockie FergusonUsman Khawaja, Jaskaran Singh, Saurabh Kumar, Milind Tondon, Manoj Tiwary, Jaydev Unadkat, Adam Zampa

TIME: 14.30 GMT | 20.00 IST