Times of Oman
Cricket Column: Pune’s heroes deserve more zeroes
May 15, 2017 | 4:55 PM
by Prasad Panicker / Beyond The Boundary
Rising Pune Supergiant's captain Steve Smith, left, with MS Dhoni. Photo - PTI
 
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Twitter comments made by Harsh Goenka, brother of the owner of Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS), had been a farrago of a bit of fact and a mountain of farce, but with RPS making the play-off finishing second, we could not appreciate the grain of truth lurking in the mountain of Harsh bias.

Goenka seemed to be at his hostile and prejudiced worst in his May 3 tweet on the heroes — “Tripathi, Stokes, Smith, Tahir”— that singled out MS Dhoni, but as Steve Smith and 10 heroes take on Mumbai Indians in the play-off on Tuesday, even those who had raised hell about the un-brotherly tweets may agree that Goenka was spot-on about the “Great thing about #RPS. A new hero every game.”

There were plenty of heroes in all the eight franchises that competed in 14 matches to chart their course to the pay-off. Predictably, some of the pre-tournament heroes had fallen by the wayside and, disappointingly, some of the super-heroes, like Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle, were hopelessly out of form.

All the four teams in the play-off have a fair number of heroes who lived up to their name. Some of them like David Warner and Ben Stokes were good as gold in almost all matches they had played and some others like Smith, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni were good in parts.



And there were, expectedly, some unexpected heroes, like Nitish Rana of Mumbai Indians and Rahul Tripathi of Pune.

However, Rising Pune Supergiant stand out with a long line-up of heroes: famed heroes who did justice to their price tags and unknown guys who thrust themselves into the spotlight.

While Ben Stokes has repaid the whopping Rs. 14.5-crore faith the Pune owners have bestowed on him with consistent, outstanding performances, three youngsters have paid back the team in platinum for the peanuts they got.

Jaydev Unadkat (Rs. 30 lakh), Shardul Thakur (Rs. 20 lakh) and Rahul Tripathi (Rs. 10 lakh) were among the cheapest buys, but their consistent showings and positive spirit make skipper Smith smile every time he speaks about the boys.

Unadkat and Thakur have paired up well in powerplays, and their heroics in the must-win match on Saturday against Kings XI Punjab is the sort of stuff skippers dream about. Together, with a bit of support from Ben Stokes, they scripted the fate of Punjab inside the first six overs, leaving them staring defeat in the face at 34 for five.

If Unadkat’s bang-on low throw that rattled the stumps to dismiss Shaun Marsh and the dive to his left from fine short leg to grab the ball to send back Rahul Tewatia were inspiring instances of commitment that win matches, Thakur’s spontaneous wave of his still-sweaty palm to suggest how tense he had been right from boarding the team bus to the end of the Punjab innings inside 16 overs for a paltry 73 was an innocent display of commitment and concern in the right mix.

Going into their play-off match against Mumbai Indians without Ben Stokes and Imran Tahir, Pune are two short of the Goenka heroes, but the momentum seems to be in favour of Smith and his heroes.

One of the pleasing highlights of the crucial game against Punjab was actually a moment that happened just after the game got over and Smith and Ajinkya Rahane walked out of the field shaking hands with their teammates.

In focus was a happy Dhoni greeting an all-smiles Smith with a hug and tap on the shoulder and it was wonderful to watch a legend of the game and a legend-in-the-making who might not have shared the same dressing room for two long months if not for the IPL in genuine appreciation of each other.

How wonderful it is to witness that, as the season is set to get over in a few days, there is nothing quite as stupid and disgusting as the infamous “Smith overshadows Dhoni” tweet on April 6, which seemed to suggest an intercontinental battle of attrition was on course.

*****

The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman

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