We do not know yet if the bold decisions made by the powers that be at Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS), will pay dividends. But what we can say at the moment, with RPS set to take on Mumbai Indians (MI) in the second match of IPL 2017 and their campaign opener at the MCA Stadium in Pune, is that the Supergiants made the most noise in the lead-up to the auction and on the auction day (February 20) too, with the acquisition of Ben Stokes for 14.5 Crore rupees. As a result of their decision to drop MS Dhoni as the captain and pass over the mantle to Steve Smith, in addition to adding the most coveted all-rounder in world cricket to their squad, RPS can expect to be kept a close eye on and criticised heavily if they falter like last season.
Pune finished IPL 2016 in seventh place and their squad isn’t a lot different this season to what it was last. The injuries to Ravichandran Ashwin (sports hernia) and Mitchell Marsh (right shoulder) haven’t helped matters either.
Mumbai Indians were conservative at the IPL 2017 auction, in which they looked predominantly to bolster their domestic player quota. MI, for the first time since IPL 2009, failed to make the playoffs last season. They have also changed their coach, with Mahela Jayawardene taking over from Ricky Ponting.
This is the fifth Maharashtra derby in IPL history and RPS and MI will want to put out playing XIs which will help win the bragging rights of the state.
RPS v MI: Playing XIs for the second match of IPL 2017
RPS added Imran Tahir, who had gone unsold, to their squad after the younger Marsh returned home at the conclusion of the Bangalore Test against India.
RPS batting line-up is fairly settled and for the Supergiants to have a good season, the seasoned campaigners like Faf du Plessis, Ajinkya Rahane, Dhoni, and Smith himself must step up and deliver.
RPS’s bowling attack is quite weak and on good batting pitches, the batsmen will be relied on heavily. Ashok Dinda will be the bowling spearhead and the Bengal pacer is likely to be supported by Jaydev Unadkat (Saurashtra), Rajat Bhatia (Delhi), Australian Adam Zampa, and Ankit Sharma (Madhya Pradesh). The new recruit Ben Stokes will be a crucial component with the ball as well.
Therefore, here’s what I believe will be RPS’s playing XI against MI: Steve Smith*, Ajinkya Rahane, Faf du Plessis, MS Dhoni, Ben Stokes, Manoj Tiwary, Rajat Bhatia, Ankit Sharma, Adam Zampa, Ashok Dinda, and Jaydev Unadkat
Actual RPS playing XI against MI: Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, MS Dhoni, Ben Stokes, Manoj Tiwary, Rajat Bhatia, Deepak Chahar, Adam Zampa, Imran Tahir, and Ashok Dinda
MI have bought back Mitchell Johnson from Kings XI Punjab and the Australian left-arm pacer will look to establish the kind of new-ball bowling partnership with Lasith Malinga that won Mumbai their first IPL title in 2013.
Malinga is currently playing for Srilanka in their two-T20I series against Bangladesh, and he is unavailable for MI’s opening match. We need to wait and see if the Srilankan pacer will feature against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Sunday (April 9).
Lendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard arrived in Mumbai earlier this week, after the completion of West Indies’s four-T20I series against Pakistan, and have been training with the rest of the MI squad. But I don’t think this West Indian duo will make the playing XI straight away.
In Simmons’ absence, I expect Nicholas Pooran to make his MI debut and open the batting with Parthiv Patel. Jos Buttler will probably feature as one of the four overseas players in the MI line-up against RPS.
Ambati Rayudu and captain Rohit Sharma will look to provide solidity to the middle order, which is likely to feature another new recruit Saurabh Tiwary, Jos Buttler and Nitish Rana, for the clash against RPS.
Last season’s wonder Krunal Pandya is likely to play ahead of his younger brother. Harbhajan Singh will complement the left-arm spinner in MI’s playing XI for the second match of IPL 2017.
MI’s likely playing XI against RPS is as follows: Rohit Sharma*, Nicholas Pooran, Parthiv Patel, Jos Buttler, Nitish Rana, Saurabh Tiwary, Krunal Pandya, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Johnson, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mitchell McClenaghan
Actual MI playing XI: Rohit Sharma*, Parthiv Patel, Ambati Rayudu, Kieron Pollard, Jos Buttler, Krunal Pandya, Nitish Rana, Hardik Pandya, Mitchell McClenaghan, Tim Southee, and Jasprit Bumrah