What’s the story?
Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) owner Sanjiv Goenka has lavished praises on captain Steven Smith as well as veteran wicket-keeper batsman MS Dhoni. Lauding the Australian player’s sharp intellect, he accorded a massive compliment to him by declaring that his mind was even ahead of the seasoned Indian campaigner.
“MS is one of the greatest minds I have interacted with. And he is the best wicket-keeper in the world. The one mind ahead of Dhoni’s is (Steven) Smith’s. My brief to Smith was – ‘win the championship’. It’s difficult to believe the way he has planned some dismissals; the tact and firmness with which he has dealt with tricky situations and the win-or-nothing attitude he has been able to infuse into the team (and) get them to gel as a unit,” Goenka told Hindustan Times.
He added, “You need to win eight (or) nine games to make the playoffs and Smith told me that between him, (Imran) Tahir and (Ben) Stokes, we would win seven. And players of the calibre of MS will always give you something. We had more match winners this time, players who would need five (to) six balls to settle down instead of 20. And we had not factored in Rahul Tripathi, Washington Sundar and Jaydev Unadkat. Tripathi and Sundar are going to be serious players on the Indian cricket scene.”
Before the season began, RPS had replaced Dhoni with Smith at the helm of affairs following a disastrous showing in the 2016 edition of the IPL. He explained the decision by alluding to their preference for a ‘young captain‘.
The heart of the matter
Under Smith’s astute leadership, RPS have qualified for the final. They finished second on the league table with as many as nine victories from 14 matches. With 421 runs at an average of 38.27 and strike-rate of 124.92, Smith has managed to lead from the front.
In his maiden IPL season as full-time skipper, the 27-year old has been able to extract game-changing performances from the likes of Jaydev Unadkat, Washington Sundar and Rahul Tripathi. At various pressure moments, Smith has also not shied away from utilising the extensive leadership experience of Dhoni.
In the summit clash, RPS will lock horns with the Mumbai Indians who managed to stave off Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday night. The final will take place on Sunday night at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.
Going by Smith’s own words, Dhoni has been helping him lead the team by providing his inputs in numerous situations. The 35-year old is enjoying his final phase without the added pressure of captaincy. Goenka’s assessment could stem from the fact that the Australian skipper is much younger and at the peak of his career.Published 20 May 2017, 09:35 IST