Rising Supergiants cricketer MS Dhoni plays a shot during the 2017 IPL match. Photograph: (AFP)
By Rustam Roy
Mumbai Indian fans should be weary of one man in today's final - MS Dhoni, after all he is etched in their memory as the man who hit that 'super six' in the 2011 World Cup final at the Wankhede against Sri Lanka. Mumbai coach Mahela Jayawardene who was at the receiving end on that day will also be a tad uncomfortable when the Ranchi star comes out to bat.
MS has always relished a final encounter be it the ICC T20, 50-over World Cup, Champions trophy but importantly in the context of the IPL - the former Indian captain has featured in most IPL finals - seven including this year's clash with Mumbai Indians. Rohit Sharma's men should be very afraid.
Dhoni has been quietly racking up the runs in this edition, focussing on returns-280 runs in 15 matches @ an average of 114. One of the great finishers of the game, he has hit more sixes than boundaries in this season -14 boundaries and 16 sixes, in fact he has hit more sixes compared to boundaries for the first time in this season- maybe the best of Dhoni is yet to come.
Rising Pune Supergiants have a huge psychological edge over Rohit Sharma's men having beaten them in the first qualifier easily by 20 runs and outclassed them at home & away in this season. Dhoni left a few scars on the Mumbai bowlers in the first qualifier after he hit a quickfire 40 off 26 balls with five sixes in a crucial 73-run stand with Manoj Tiwary which tilted the game in Pune's favour on Tuesday.
Skipper Rohit Sharma and coach would have to sit down with Malinga, McClenaghan and Bumrah to devise a plan to stop the Dhoni onslaught, maybe introducing Harbhajan would be a good ploy. The trick is to get Dhoni early and not allow him to settle down because once he is able play himself in, the death overs become a nightmare for the opposition as Bumrah and McClenaghan found out to their horror at the Wankhede.
Pune Supergiants have all to play for in their debut appearance in the final as they will be dismantaled after the final match and just like Chennai Superkings who no longer exist but have left an indelible mark, Pune spearheaded by Dhoni power under Australian Steve Smith can outclass the star studded Mumbai Indians.