Horse racing enthusiasts swear by their race cards through thick and thin. Not everyone goes by the suggested odds, but those tiny booklets provide you with everything you need to know to pick the right horse for the course.
That level of detail is key in cricket too. As you probably know already, Rising Pune Supergiant and Mumbai Indians have played each other five times since Pune’s inclusion in the Indian Premier League in 2016. Pune have won four times, and three of those wins have come this season.
Mumbai may have won the crown twice and possess way more big-stage experience, but the odds, based on recent form, are in Pune’s favour when they line up on Sunday (May 21) for the fourth Maharashtra Derby of the year, which also happens to be the final of the Indian Premier League 2017.
So here’s a look at their exchanges and the changes they have undergone during the course of the season. You could think of it as our version of a horse-racing card, minus the racing tips, of course.
April 6, 2017: MCA Stadium, Pune
This was the season opener for both the teams, and Pune managed to get their campaign off to a winning start against the eternal favourites. Pune had faced the same opponents in the 2016 opener and come away with a win then too. Only, this time, it came under Steven Smith’s leadership and they didn’t have the explosiveness of Faf du Plessis and Kevin Pietersen.
The absence of R Ashwin, who was ruled out before the start of the 2017 edition, too placed the odds against Pune, but they proved that their young unit could gel together and deliver against a side that was nearly identical to the one they faced on a couple of occasions last year.
Despite having batted at the top only seven times in his entire Twenty20 career, Jos Buttler was sent to open and he came up with a blistering 38. Nitish Rana showed that he could be a capable No. 4. Imran Tahir, who was not picked during the auction, was brought in by Pune as replacement for the injured Mitchell Marsh, and the legspinner delivered with a crucial 3 for 38.
The moment of the match, however, came when Ashok Dinda was handed the ball in the 20th over. It turned out to be the most expensive final over in IPL history with 30 runs conceded as Hardik Pandya slapped the clueless paceman for four sixes.
Mumbai had never failed to defend 184 or more, not until this game.
Ajinkya Rahane and Smith came up with half-centuries while their big acquisition – Ben Stokes – came up with a fiery 21 to see them chase down the towering total with a ball to spare.
So 1-0 to Pune, even though MS Dhoni, who has been captain of either Chennai Super Kings or Pune since the start of the IPL in 2008, wasn’t in charge, and it was a bitter pill to swallow for those who have always seen him lead from the front.
Brief scores: Mumbai Indians 184/8 in 20 overs (Jos Buttler 38, Nitish Rana 34, Kieron Pollard 27, Hardik Pandya 35 n.o.; Imran Tahir 3-28, Rajat Bhatia 2-14) lost to Rising Pune Supergiant 187/3 in 19.5 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 60, Steven Smith 84 n.o., Ben Stokes 21) by 7 wickets.
April 24, 2017: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
By the time the sides met for the return fixture, plenty of changes had been made to team combinations. Mumbai, who had gone on a six-match winning spree since that opening loss, had an established lineup with Mitchell Johnson coming in for Tim Southee as the only change to the XI that faced Pune in the opener. They were forced to leave Krunal Pandya out because of the flu, but the inclusion of Karn Sharma was going to fit into their scheme of things perfectly well going forward.
For Pune, Rahul Tripathi had grabbed his opportunity to open with some fine knocks, meaning Mayank Agarwal’s place now was on the bench. Rajat Bhatia, Deepak Chahar, Dinda and Adam Zampa, all of whom featured in the first game, were out and the new inclusions were Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Jaydev Unadkat and Dan Christian.
This combination had worked excellently in helping Pune out of their three-game losing slump, assuring them spots in the team for the Mumbai test.
Rahane provided Pune with a good start with a fine 38, but it was Tripathi’s audacious hitting that caught the opponents off guard. The newbie smashed 45 to provide the middle and lower order with the right base. They, however, didn’t quite capitalise as Mumbai’s bowling, led by Jasprit Bumrah’s disciplined line and length, kept them down to 160 for 6.
On the face of it, Mumbai chasing 161 at the Wankhede didn’t seem like a contest. At least not until Stokes, Tahir and Washington turned the screws on them. Mumbai seemed to be coasting on the back of Parthiv Patel’s 33 and Rohit Sharma’s elegant 58, but the lower middle order didn’t have an answer to Pune’s questions as Mumbai fell just short.
The key in this Pune win was the utilisation of Sundar in the Power Play period. He went for 26 and picked up Parthiv’s wicket to set things up for Stokes and the rest.
Brief scores: Rising Pune Supergiant 160/6 in 20 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 38, Rahul Tripathi 45, Manoj Tiwary 22; Karn Sharma 2-39, Jasprit Bumrah 2-29) beat Mumbai Indians 157/8 in 20 overs (Parthiv Patel 33, Rohit Sharma 58; Jaydev Unadkat 2-40, Ben Stokes 2-21) by 3 runs.
May 16, 2017: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Through to Qualifier 1 on the back of one of their most successful runs in the league phase, Mumbai were once again faced with the Pune challenge. They had left the big boys out to give some of the other members a go towards the end of the league state, but they had to bring back Lasith Malinga, Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan and Parthiv for this one.
A win here would assure them a spot in the final. It also meant the end of every nagging question about their inability to get the better of Pune.
There was some concern for Pune too. Just before they cemented their spot in the playoffs, Tahir left for national duty, and once their league fixtures were completed, Stokes flew out to Madrid to join the England camp. Fortunately, their foreign recruits had done enough to bring them to the playoff round. The question now was if Pune could go 3-0 up against Mumbai without them.
It seemed less likely as they lost Tripathi and Smith with nine runs on the board. Rahane, however, put his Mumbai knowledge to good use and brought up a calculated 56 and Manoj Tiwary repaid the faith shown in him with a crucial 58. Still, with no Stokes, they looked to Dhoni for the late blitz. Five sixes and 40 runs later, the former skipper had turned the clock back and carried them to 162 for 4.
It was two runs more than what they had failed to chase the last time, but this time Mumbai had more information to lean on. But no amount of homework could prepare them for Sundar. The offie, partnering Jaydev Unadkat with the new ball, fired in four impossibly accurate overs to break Mumbai’s spine. He conceded 16 runs and bagged the wickets of Rohit, Ambati Rayudu and Kieron Pollard. Parthiv showed some fight with a cautious 52, but once Shardul Thakur got in on the feast, there was nothing Mumbai could do but watch as they crumbled in front of their disappointed home fans, again.
Brief scores: Rising Pune Supergiant 162/4 in 20 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 56, Manoj Tiwary 58, MS Dhoni 40 n.o.) beat Mumbai Indians 142/9 in 20 overs (Parthiv Patel 52; Washington Sundar 3-16, Shardul Thakur 3-37) by 20 runs.