The Rising Pune Supergiant will be out to claim their fourth consecutive victory over the Mumbai Indians in the IPL final on Sunday.
As it stands, the Supergiant and the Gujarat Lions will be omitted from next year’s tournament to make way for the Rajasthan Royals and the Chennai Super Kings, who return from respective two-year bans for match-fixing.
Supergiant has made a serious case for their inclusion next year by winning nine of their 14 matches on their way to finishing second on the log.
They then proceeded to beat Sunday’s opponents, the table-topping MI in Qualifier 1 to book a place in the final. Should they triumph on Sunday it would seem the BCCI’s hand in opting for a possible expansion will be forced.
The Mumbai Indians, meanwhile, will be hoping to emulate their 2013 success. In that particular season, Mumbai finished the round-robin stage second on the points table before clinching a 23-run win over CSK in the final.
The two sides have met each other three times this season. Supergiant hosted the Indians in Match 2 of this year’s tournament where they triumphed by seven wickets, with one ball to spare.
The Supergiant then completed a regular season double as they beat the home side by a slender margin of three runs. In Tuesday’s qualifier, the Pune outfit then chalked up another victory over Mumbai, running out 20-run victors.
Should the Mumbai Indians win, one can expect either Parthiv Patel or Kieron Pollard to make a contribution with the bat. The pair have been Mumbai’s leading run-scorers with 391 and 378 runs respectively in the tournament thus far.
With the ball, they will need Mitch McClenhagan and Jasprit Bumrah to keep the Pune batsmen in check, having taken 19 and 18 wickets each in the season up to this point. Furthermore, they will be hoping that McClenhagan can keep it tight and improve on his costly economy rate of 9.38 to the over this season.
RPS’ challenge with the bat will largely be determined by the performance of Steve Smith (421 runs), Rahul Tripathi (388) and Ajinkya Rahane (338).
All three have scored two half-centuries apiece during the competition. Manish Tiwary provides further batting strength for the Supergiant, having scored 317 runs in the tournament at an average of 35.22 (two fifties).
On the bowling front, Jaydev Unadkat may prove the key to a Supergiant success. He has been the leading wicket-taker for his team with 22 wickets, ahead of only South Africa’s Imran Tahir with 18 wickets.
Tahir has been lost to international duty, but Unadkat’s miserly economy rate of 7.24 could prove the difference on the day.
If past results this season are an indicator of tomorrow’s outcome, then RPS will be installed as favourites to lift the trophy. They also have the added incentive of proving that they deserve to remain in the competition next year.
On the other hand though, one could argue that Mumbai are due a victory over RPS after three defeats this season. As the old saying goes, however, ‘anything can happen on the day.’