IPL 10:Is MSD behind the rise of Pune?

As the Kolkata-based R. P. Sanjiv Goenka Group successfully bid for the Pune franchise as a stop-gap arrangement in the wake of suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, everyone involved was well aware that the franchise would exist only for two IPL seasons. With four days remaining in its topsy-turvy ride, the Supergiant remains one win away from ensuring that the defending champion will not participate in the tournament's next edition.

When such a rare possibility loomed large in the UEFA Champions League last decade, the rules were tweaked and Liverpool was allowed to participate in the qualification round. Whereas, Aizawl FC—after a fairytale ride to be crowned the I-League champion, is all but unlikely to defend its crown next year in the unified football league in India.

Whether the team exists or not, the owners could well be a part of the next season, with Goenka confiding to Sportstar prior to the start of the tournament that given an opportunity he would want to be involved in IPL next year, amidst the talks of the group set to buy out one of the existing franchises.

Irrespective of what happens to the team next year, the manner in which Steven Smith's men have turned the tables after a forgettable outing in 2016 is commendable. From finishing second from bottom to storming in the final, it has been a startling comeback. Despite retaining the core of the last year's group, the team made some bold decisions ahead of the season, including passing the baton from the all-conquering Mahendra Singh Dhoni to Smith and going broke for England all-rounder Ben Stokes in the auction.

With the Pune outfit emerging as the first team to book a place in the final, it may seem as if it's been a smooth ride for the team this season. However, having suffered a hat-trick of losses and languishing at the bottom of the table, when the team travelled to Bengaluru on April 15, it was in danger of not living up to its potential last year.

According to senior batsman Ajinkya Rahane, the victory against Royal Challengers Bangalore was “the turning point” in its campaign. Since then, the Pune outfit has won nine of its 11 matches. The hallmark of its home run has been collective contributions, something that Rahane expresed as “team effort” after its last league game on Sunday.

In the 10 wins so far, including Tuesday's Play-off win against Mumbai Indians, Rising Pune Supergiant has seen seven different players being awarded Man of the Match. Moreover, seven of the 10 man of the match awards have been awarded for bowling performances, thus underlining the Supergiant's strength. No wonder that no team has managed to cross 170 against the team for six matches now. And even on a ground like the Wankhede, on a pitch that wasn't a usual flat deck, the Supergiant comfortably defended a total of 162 on Tuesday night.

Even if Sunday night doesn't go according to its script, the Supergiant has ensured the 2017 season will be referred to as the “RPS season”. Considering the form the team is in, it would take a monumental effort for its opponent to not let the script as per the RPS' wishes, though.

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