Whose side are you on? Pune? Or Mumbai?
Regardless, it is a big day.
May 21, 2017. The players are about to hit the cricketing turf akin to restless fighters being released from a prison cell. The aim? To survive at the cost of the other’s fall.
The coveted IPL trophy, arguably the biggest in the fanfare of T20 supported with hard sums of cash, perhaps at a level of cricketing frenzy that boisterously equates to a wrongly convicted individual desiring freedom.
Perhaps, it equates to a moment where Cricket offers liberation
As the IPL reaches the pinnacle of its excitement, who doesn’t keenly await a highly anticipated final clash?
But, is it really a measure of what we self-titled experts of cricket had anticipated?
Has it panned out the way we’d originally thought the IPL would?
Is it just Mumbai Indians versus Rising Pune Supergiants?
Or is it a duel between mighty self-belief and newfound rigour?
A battle between harsh morning sunshine and the titillating ray of sun, the latter dying to make it count?
Those who dip in amusement might have predicted Pune to enter the 2017 IPL finals, in what’s clearly been a momentous first in its hitherto- nascent IPL run.
That said, but in what could be called T-20’s equivalent of a cousin rivalry, Rising Pune Supergiants are set to spoil Mumbai’s party. But that’s what Dhoni and Smith supporters feel. For Rohit Sharma’s backers and fans, the wish is to have the likes of Krunal Pandya, Lasith Malinga and, Kieron Pollard transform themselves into mean killing machines; brute forces that can run down their opponent like an overgrown bully, extracting pleasure from snatching a kid’s candy.
But if not for anything else then Season 10 of the Indian Premier League must be remembered for offering a chance to the simple and focused. For playing a fair hand to one who persists in the absence of flair and dare one say- shenanigans.
Fundamentally, hinting at the silent triumph of a Pune, against the strong buck spinning exuberance Mumbai brings to the contest, that is somewhere skewed to the loud and gargantuan.
Before the big hits and lofty strokes, came a sudden dip in Dhoni’s form, at around the time when the tournament was feeding on powers of David Warner, Rishabh Pant and, Sunil Narine.
Smith might have been the man to watch out for, given the early glimpses of his potential to master run chases but he wasn’t the most celebrated. Or was he? Yet, somehow, perhaps motivated by the knack of trying without expecting sensations, in Virat Kohli’s land the puppy-faced waged an assault so inspiring that it brought curtains on not only the sides but furthered a path for a team that didn’t exactly have the biggest backing of fans.
Therefore, the biggest victor, at around 11.30 PM IST might not exactly be a Mumbai or Pune alone but the tiny, precious and, vital thread of self-confidence that sprung open in a tournament that is known to have traditionally parted with less formidable teams right in the middle stages. This is at a time while the hype of the IPL trails the exhilaration of seemingly powerful sides.
But with no Kolkata and Hyderabad this time, one must tip the hat to a side that has managed to stare the belligerent and emphatic Mumbai right in the eye, contesting with less of flair but diligence, basing their game on dynamics of close team functioning instead of charisma. Pune, it might be said, would’ve seemed even mightier than they seem now had they contested with someone like a Faf Du Plessis or Ben Stokes.
That the IPL doesn’t always reward the ‘biggies’ of a contest styled on a wham-bam DNA isn’t the only lesson here. Rather, that the IPL is a reward of the patience and getting together of a unit that cherishes playing closely over individual heroics that send media into a dizzy is the lesson one must take away. Especially, from a contest lavishly decked up with ostentatious spending where the greatest lesson isn’t necessarily about coming together as ‘one’ unit.
For those scintillating Dhoni heroics throughout the tournament, the calm leadership of Smith and the ability of them both to work wonders around an unsung unit, encouraging talents like Rahane- 220 plus runs thus far, newbie Rahul Tripathi and, inarguably their best- Ben Stokes- 11 wickets plus nearly 250 tournament runs- Pune have engineered a lesson. That the IPL is also about a dainty David coming mighty close to the marauding Goliath, in a bid to topple it forever.