While Rising Pune Supergiant will be playing for their maiden title win when they take the field on Sunday, 21 May 2017, their opponents – Mumbai Indians – will be eyeing their third title, having lifted the coveted IPL trophy twice previously in 2013 and 2015.
Under the guidance of Mahela Jayawardene and the astute leadership of Rohit Sharma, MI have been one of the more consistent teams in VIVIO IPL 2017, but have faltered against RPS on three occasions during the season. Reflecting on their three defeats to RPS, the MI coach said, “The first game was against RPS and they gave us a wake-up call. We realised that we had to play better cricket than that. We got a little bit of momentum, we won some close matches (and we)made sure we kept going.And again, they gave us a wake-up call in the middle of the season. We made sure we regrouped and didn’t slack as a group towards the later part of the tournament. It’s been a good team effort and a lot of boys put their hand up in tough situations and won matches. I think it’s a tough tournament because any team could beat you on the day, home and away conditions are different. But credit to the boys, they have really performed well.
Speaking about the defeat to RPS in Qualifier 1, the MI coach said, “They gave us a wake-up call again in the knockout stages. We had to go to Bangalore, regroup again and play a good game of cricket which is good because it keeps everyone on the toes going into the final.”
MI captain Rohit Sharma’s take on his three defeats to RPS was, “Like Mahela said, we haven’t had a great history against Pune. They have been playing some really good cricket and it’s just that we haven’t been playing too well on those days. That’s the reason we lost those games. Tomorrow we’ve got to make sure we’re better and we play good cricket and focus on what we need to do. If all those things are looked after results will take care of themselves,” Rohit added.
Come Sunday, Rohit Sharma – the captain and batsman – will play an important role for MI, given he has led the team to the title twice previously and has been integral to their success over the years. Speaking about the key to his success and reacting to observations of him being on the cusp of becoming the most successful IPL captain, Rohit said, “Personally, yes I’ll have a third chance (to lift the IPL trophy).But the focus is on playing the right game. I am not focussing too much on being the captain or playing the third final. It’s important for me that we play the cricket we are expected to play. It’s important that you stay in that zone and continue to perform how we have been performing all season. It’s my responsibility as a captain to ensure we’re in that zone and focus on the job at hand.”
Rohit explained that team-work throughout the tournament has helped the team perform wellconsistently. “Guys have come at different points and taken up the responsibility and it goes to show that team work is so much important – whether it’s batting or bowling. That’s what we have done well throughout the series. I am honestly not really worried about the key players not delivering consistently because they have not had opportunities consistently. Lot of the games, if you see, (particularly) in the first half, was batted (set up) by the top three batsmen.The middle order has delivered whenever it had the opportunity.”
Rohit’s opposite number, Steve Smith said, his team would be taking confidence from the fact that T20 is anyone’s game. However, he added, “In the end, finals cricket is finals cricket. It comes down to who plays best on that day. I think both our teams have played some really good cricket to get this far in the tournament. I am sure the game tomorrow is going to be not an easy one.”
“The fact that we had a couple of days to relax and regroup after a very good game against Mumbai Indians in Mumbai, it’s been very nice. Guys had a good training session tonight and we are ready to go for tomorrow,” Smithelaborated on the mood in the RPS camp in the lead up to the final.
Unlike MI, RPS had a rough start to the season before gathering momentum and making it to the top two in the points table. The former captain – MS Dhoni’s contribution to the team’s success was much appreciated by coach Stephen Fleming. Asked about the wicketkeeper-batsman’s contribution,Fleming said, “He’s one of the more successful players to playin the last decade. It’s another opportunity to win another final IPL. I know he’s up for it and is motivated. He’s been criticised for nothing, but you have to appreciate how he has done it time and time again. He has been a good player for us, he has been good from a leadership point of view and we hope that he has a good final tomorrow.”
The synergy between Smith and Dhoni has contributed to the team’s success and the coachelaborated on the symbiotic relationship between the duo. “It’s just good communication between the two of them. They have been outstanding. Much has been made of their relationship but certainly sitting with them it’s nothing but influential to the younger players and beneficial for the senior players and for me. It has been a great dynamic to be a part of. This is the first time I am working with Steve and I have enjoyed it thoroughly.”
“From a leadership point of view, we have a big challenge ahead, but we’ve faced a lot of challenges throughout this tournament and we’ve faced them well. We’re quietly confident, pretty much like our entire campaign where we have flown under the radar and done things quietly,” Fleming expressed the confidence in the RPS camp.
“It has been a lot of fun to work with Flem (Fleming) and MS (Dhoni), to try and get the best out of this group that we have. We have shown a lot of consistency in the backend of this tournament which is very important to the business end. Great to have played the way we have. Hope we can put on one more good show,” Smith added.
As the teams gear up for the final, both coaches gave an insight into their respective team’s preparations for the big match. “The finals should ideally be a time when you sit back, because if you’re in the finals things must’ve gone right at the start. You don’t have to start over analysing and make changes because it might not be beneficial to the team. From my point, it’s pretty much sit back and enjoy the view. It’s a great event, a final. And two of the most consistent teams are there and some great players on show. From a coach’s point of view, (it is) just a good seat in the house,” Fleming concluded.
Jayawardene agreed and added, “You just have to be consistent throughout the tournament.And like Stephen rightly said, the top two teams are in the final.So we have a lot of mutual respect for the way both teams have played. It’s all about guys going out and enjoying themselves and playing a good game of cricket.”
“For us as coaches, it’s good that whatever we planned from January onward, how we wanted to have backups, a lot of boys were leaving – England boys and all that – so to plan all that and to get everything right and for us to be in this position is just brilliant. Right now, it’s just about having a good day tomorrow and letting the boys enjoy themselves,” Jayawardene signed off.