A dream final: The eternal underdogs vs outright favourites

Match facts

Venue: Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, Uppal, Hyderabad
Date and time: May 21, 2017; 20:00 hours IST

Finished 7th in their first season as an IPL franchise, their owner made an unpopular decision to strip MS Dhoni of captaincy this pre-season, 14.5 crore rupees were splashed on the most coveted all-rounder in world cricket at the IPL 2017 auction, and they began this season with no identity whatsoever. ‘They’, are Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) and one of the IPL 2017 finalists. Despite overcoming the odds and proving their doubters wrong on multiple occasions—even on Tuesday night, when Ben Stokes’s absence was expected to undermine their season—Rising Pune will start as underdogs for the May 21 final at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad.

But if you ask Steve Smith and the unrecognised players who have played significant roles in bringing them to the final, they will be happy with their ‘underdog’ tag ahead of the final. Firstly because they are in the last stage of the tournament (considering that nobody had expected them to come this far) and secondly because the weight of expectations is on Pune’s opponents and not actually on them. The counterargument could be that pressure can bring the best out of you and as sportsmen, you need to feel a bit of pressure to perform on a big stage.

While Ben Stokes played a starring role in many of Pune’s league wins, the consistent performances of Rahul Tripathi, Jaydev Unadkat, Manoj Tiwary, and Washington Sundar and the influence they have consequently had are too great to be overlooked. And, if Pune are to overcome the odds one final time, the aforementioned quartet need to produce the goods one final time as well. Supergiant are a settled side who will look to replicate the magic of Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League. Also, Smith, at just 27 years of age, has a great chance to create a legacy for himself as a captain and also become the fourth Australian [after Shane Warne (2008), Adam Gilchrist (2009) and David Warner (2016)] to lead his team to an IPL title.

Mumbai Indians (MI) have taken the longer route to the final. They might have doubted themselves after losing to Pune in Qualifier 1, but against Kolkata Knight Riders, Rohit Sharma and co. played like a champion side and their six-wicket win has carried them into the IPL 10 final. After failing for the first time in seven seasons (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016) to even reach the IPL 2016 playoffs, Mumbai have enjoyed a great season, winning 11 and losing 5 of the 16 matches played so far.

Despite being reiterated often, the West Indian franchise are the most resourceful IPL outfit and their resourcefulness is one of the reasons why they will start tomorrow night’s final as outright favourites. Rohit has at his disposal players who have a wealth of T20 experience, quality Indian all-rounders and together, they make Mumbai a formidable and well-balanced side.

The batsmen, in particular, have suffered a drop in form over the last week of IPL 2017, with the likes of Lendl Simmons, Kieron Pollard and Rohit Sharma himself short of runs ahead of the clash against Pune. This will be a slight concern for the team management, who will, however, believe that the troika mentioned above are capable of bringing their A-game to the fore on super Sunday. What’s at stake for Mumbai is a chance to become the first team in IPL history to win three titles.

Road to the IPL 2017 final

Mumbai finished the league stage as table-toppers with 10 wins and four defeats. They were dominant for much of the league phase and finishing first put them in the first qualifier, the tie every team want to be in. Mumbai, though, made some costly errors in both the innings of qualifier 1 and paid the price. This defeat wasn’t fatal, though, for Mumbai, who went into the second qualifier and beat Knight Riders by six wickets to qualify for their fourth IPL final.

Pune were slow-starters and won just one of their first four league matches. But of the final 10, they lost just two, one to KKR and one to Delhi Daredevils, and finished second with 18 points. They then got to face Mumbai for the third time this season. And Pune inflicted yet another defeat, this time by 20 runs, on their Maharashtra derby rivals and became the first team to qualify for the IPL 2017 final.

RPS vs MI head-to-head and record in finals

Supergiant hold a 4-1 head-to-head record against the Indians, three of whose five defeats this season have come against Steve Smith’s men.

Mumbai, though, have the experience of winning two IPL titles with pretty much the same team and will look to make it count. Overall, Mumbai have been part of three IPL finals, in all of which their opponents have been Chennai Super Kings, winning two and losing one.

This is Pune’s first taste of playing an IPL final, though the likes of Dhoni, Rajat Bhatia and Manoj Tiwary have the experience of playing in IPL finals before and winning titles with their previous teams.

Record at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad

Mumbai: played 7; won 4 and lost 3 (Mumbai’s last two trips to Hyderabad have ended in defeats to Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Pune: played 2; won 2 and lost 0

Also, the last time Mumbai lost the first qualifier (2013), they went on to win the IPL title.




RPS vs MI playing XI in final

The conditions in Hyderabad might dictate the playing XIs Pune and Mumbai go in with on Sunday, but on a fundamental level, neither of them are expected to make changes.

For Pune, Lockie Ferguson did a good job in Stokes’ absence on Tuesday night and the rest of the bowling unit, comprising Unadkat, Shardul Thakur, Daniel Christian, and Sundar, has remained pretty much the same for a good month or so now. Adam Zampa has come in place of Imran Tahir and played only a minor role in the two matches since the South African leg spinner’s departure.

The batting line-up doesn’t need changes unless any of those who featured in Tuesday night’s win against Mumbai has suffered an injury.

RPS’s probable playing XI vs MI: 1. Steve Smith (c), 2. Ajinkya Rahane, 3. Rahul Tripathi, 4. Manoj Tiwary, 5. MS Dhoni (wk), 6. Daniel Christian, 7. Washington Sundar, 8. Shardul Thakur, 9. Jaydev Unadkat, 10. Lockie Ferguson, and 11. Adam Zampa

Actual playing XI for Pune is the same as what Cricfooty had predicted: 1. Steve Smith (c), 2. Ajinkya Rahane, 3. Rahul Tripathi, 4. Manoj Tiwary, 5. MS Dhoni (wk), 6. Daniel Christian, 7. Washington Sundar, 8. Shardul Thakur, 9. Jaydev Unadkat, 10. Lockie Ferguson, and 11. Adam Zampa

Enjoy what should be a cracking match!

Mumbai brought in Mitchell Johnson for the erratic Mitchell McClenaghan and decided to stick with Karn Sharma’s bowling rhythm over Harbhajan Singh’s experience. And both these decisions worked a treat against Kolkata in last night’s second qualifier.

As aforementioned, the core of Mumbai’s batting line-up is out of form. But other than Nitish Rana potentially replacing Ambati Rayudu, who has failed in back-to-back matches following his 63 against KKR in the final league match, the team think-tank is unlikely to tinker with the winning combination from Friday night.

MI’s probable playing XI vs RPS: 1. Rohit Sharma (c), 2. Parthiv Patel (wk), 3. Lendl Simmons, 4. Ambati Rayudu/Nitish Rana, 5. Kieron Pollard, 6. Krunal Pandya, 7. Hardik Pandya, 8. Karn Sharma, 9. Mitchell Johnson, 10. Jasprit Bumrah, and 11. Lasith Malinga

Mumbai’s actual playing XI: 1. Rohit Sharma (c), 2. Parthiv Patel (wk), 3. Lendl Simmons, 4. Ambati Rayudu, 5. Kieron Pollard, 6. Krunal Pandya, 7. Hardik Pandya, 8. Karn Sharma, 9. Mitchell Johnson, 10. Jasprit Bumrah, and 11. Lasith Malinga

No Mitchell McClenaghan for the final and Rayudu keeps his place.

IPL 2017 final prediction

Both teams have strengths and relative weaknesses in their armoury and needless to say, the team who conceal their weaknesses or manage them better, are likely to go on and win the tenth edition of the IPL.

Keys to success for Mumbai:

  • Simmons and Parthiv Patel need to fire at the top of the order
  • Dismiss Tripathi cheaply
  • Malinga has to come good with the ball

Keys to success for Pune:

  • Steve Smith has to fire with the bat
  • Ferguson and Thakur must at least bowl frugal spells
  • Washington Sundar needs to take the world by storm once again
Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.



2 comments

  1. Hi Suhith,

    Your articles and prediction below show again your knowledge, views and cricket players like batsmen, all-rounders wicket-keepers and bowlers from all the teams in the Indian Premier League. I really admire your detailed extensive articles in cricfooty. I wonder how CSK is doing in the IPL. You wrote among other things:
    “Actual playing XI for Pune is the same as what Cricfooty had predicted: 1. Steve Smith (c), 2. Ajinkya Rahane, 3. Rahul Tripathi, 4. Manoj Tiwary, 5. MS Dhoni (wk), 6. Daniel Christian, 7. Washington Sundar, 8. Shardul Thakur, 9. Jaydev Unadkat, 10. Lockie Ferguson, and 11. Adam Zampa”.

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