IPL 2017 | #RPSvDD: From Imran Tahir to Chris Morris, 10 key players to watch – From Rishabh Pant, and Ben Stokes to legends like Dhoni and Smith who will fight it out to win big for their team.
(L-R) Ben Stokes, Rishabh Pant, and Imran Tahir
Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) and Delhi Daredevils (DD) are looking for a win when they clash at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium at Pune on Tuesday. RPS started their campaign for IPL 10 with a victory over Mumbai Indians but then they lost to Kings XI Punjab by six wickets on Saturday. Delhi Daredevils, on the other hand, are yet to register a win. Though they lost to Royal Challengers Bangalore, led by interim captain Shane Watson.
The two teams have crashed and burned twice in the last edition of the cash-rich T20 extravaganza. Both the times, the Supergiant has come out victors while chasing. This puts a bit of pressure on the team led by Zaheer Khan. DD have a strong bowling pool whereas Steve Smith & Co. rely heavily on the batting line up complete with MS Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane, and the most expensive player of IPL 10, Ben Stokes. But there are other gems in both team’s arsenal to turn the match in their favour. Let’s look at the 5 key players from each team.
Rising Pune Supergiant
Imran Tahir: The South African leg break bowler was roped in just before the tournament kicked off, as Ravichandran Ashwin pulled off from this year’s IPL due to injury. Tahir has adjusted his length well to suit IPL conditions and is now bowling just short of full, which has helped him reap dividends. He picked up three and two wickets in the first two games against MI and KXIP, respectively with an economy of 7.12 in eight overs and is the spearhead in bowling for the Steve Smith-led team.
Steve Smith: Smith has been enjoying the Indian summers to the fullest and is scoring all across the park. He continues his superb form as he smashed seven fours and three sixes collect 84 of 57 balls against MI. Interestingly, so far in all the editions of IPL, Smith has hit Shahbaz Nadeem of DD for 32 facing just nine balls, his highest strike rate against any bowler in the T20 event. His batting prowess remains the USP of RPS and his failure to perform led them to defeat in the second match against KXIP. If this batting lynchpin gets a good swing of his blade the Supergiant will start off to a flyer.
Ajinkya Rahane: The Indian middle order batsman has been promoted up the order and onus to open the innings rests on his shoulder along with youngster Mayank Agarwal. Like Smith, he fired on all guns against Mumbai but failed to light up against Punjab managing a mere 19 of 15 balls. Pune depends heavily on their batting line-up and their ability to chase down targets have been time tested. His average against Delhi is 77.75 with six fifty+ scores in 13 innings.
MS Dhoni: The Ranchi hitman has had a quiet start to this year’s IPL and is itching to post a big score. He failed to deliver in Indore when his team badly needed him when they were stuttering after three quick wickets within the first ten overs. The stage is set for the ex-captain to deliver against his former teammate Zaheer Khan, and to post a total of more than 180 he must join the party with his big hits.
Ben Stokes: Bought for a whopping sum of Rs 14.5 crore, Stokes been justifying the price tag. His 32 ball 50 helped the snail-paced Pune innings post a decent total of 160 against the Punjab. But he must contribute with the ball as well. His lacklustre bowling against the KXIP did not help Steve Smith & Co. Imran Tahir has been bowling well but a lack of support from the other end has not come to his aid. Stokes is the man who can plug the runs, break partnerships, and his delivery with the ball will be crucial.
Chris Morris: Winning a game in IPL becomes much easier when your all-rounder fires both barrels. Chris Morris is the lynchpin in Delhi bowling attack along with skipper Zaheer Khan. He put up an impressive performance with his right arm pace removing Chris Gayle early and scalping two more for a meagre 21 runs in his quota of four overs against RCB. But his bat remained silent when he was sent back to the pavilion for just four runs in a short chase of 157. If the Supergiant put up a big number on the scoreboard, Morris’ bat must fire speak.
Carlos Braithwaite: Much is expected from the Caribbean all-rounder as he can hit the ball long into the stands. He has the potential to be one of the most consistent big hitters and his captain will need him to be a finisher like his counterpart, Dhoni. His bowling can also be a lethal weapon as his medium pace is the perfect prescription for the Pune track.
Rishabh Pant: The Indian teenager has been making a lot of noise in the domestic circuit and has carried his form to the IPL. He raced on to 57 from just 36 balls against RCB. He has remained prolific during a chase but has managed to score only 11 form four innings when DD bats first. The Pune track will suit his taste as the ball comes quickly onto the bat. He remains the key in the Delhi middle-order and his knack of stealing singles coupled with an odd boundary remains crucial.
Sanju Samson: This Delhi team harbours a perfect balance of experience and young blood and Samson is one of the rare gems who is being nurtured under the careful eyes of Rahul Dravid. His ability to convert the ones to twos and the twos to threes is an asset to any team during the sluggish middle overs. He can change gear at will and has the potential to put any ball out of the park. It will be an interesting duel between Tahir and this raw talent from India.
Zaheer Khan: Khan remains the bowling spearhead for the Delhi team and his ability to strike right at the start will remain key. If he is able to send Rahane back to the dugout within the first two overs, Delhi can bite into Pune with venom. His cunning mixture of the slower deliveries during the death overs make him a complete package. It will be interesting to watch the battle of the fallen angles: Dhoni vs Zaheer.