The Comeback: How Have RPS Become Title Contenders?

Rising Pune Supergiant suffered from all manner of controversies and mishaps at the start of the season. They lost Ravichandran Ashwin and Mitchell Marsh, two of their regular first-team players, for the entire season with long-term injuries perilously close to the start of the IPL. The overseas replacement they roped in was a leg-spinner in Imran Tahir, the no.1 ranked T20 bowler in the world and surprisingly unpicked in the auction. However, it was quite evident Pune were struggling with their team combination trying to fit Adam Zampa and Imran Tahir in the same squad and lost three out of their opening four games.

Change in Personnel
The fact that Imran Tahir, MS Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane are the only players to have played every game for Pune this season shows that Pune struggled to find a settled combination. There has been a complete overhaul in the pace bowling department, with Pune having started with the likes of Ashok Dinda, Deepak Chahar and Rajat Bhatia. They have finally settled on a combination of Shardul Thakur, Jaydev Unadkat and Washington Sundar. Pune have used 20 players this season, which is the reason they struggled initially to find the perfect combination.

 


Emergence of local talent
Rahul Tripathi has been the find of the season for Pune, having played for Maharashtra in Ranji Trophy he was not known in cricketing circles for his explosive hitting, but after having worked on his power-hitting he has amassed 352 runs at an healthy strike-rate of 155 this IPL. Moreover, the range of strokes he has displayed has impressed one and all and he is considered to be a player of high potential.

Washington Sundar is a 17 year old who was brought in as an injury replacement for Ravichandran Ashwin, having played in the U-19 World Cup for India impressed with both bat and ball. He has delivered this season with the ball for Pune, mainly bowling sliders upfront and as a result, he has been very economical in the PowerPlay overs, going at an economy rate of just 7.12, managing to stifle the best players with his accurate darts.


Momentum Shift
On 22nd April, Pune were playing against Sunrisers Hyderabad after a six-day break, captain Steve Smith at the toss stressed at the need of gathering momentum as they were supposed to play five games in the coming ten days and four of them were at home. From a point where they needed 58 runs from 23 balls, MS Dhoni – ably supported by Manoj Tiwary – pulled off yet another memorable run chase against an in-form Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The momentum had clearly shifted and Pune were up and running.

Ben Stokes proves his worth
There is no doubt in world cricket that the Durham all-rounder is a genuine showman. With the bat, ball and in the field, Ben Stokes’ commitment is undeniable. In true Flintoff style, he plays with his heart on his sleeve. A $1.4m price tag is always hard to justify, but two remarkable performances: one with the ball and in the field against Mumbai Indians, and then with the bat against Gujarat Lions were fair indicators of his worth. He has picked up three Man of the Match awards thus far this IPL in the nine games he has played, vindicating the Pune thinktank’s decision to splurge on Stokes.

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