Ajinkya Rahane credited a team effort for Pune’s success throughout the Indian Premier League 2017 season, and admitted that the side would miss Ben Stokes, the England allrounder who will be returning home for international duty.
Pune finished the league stage second on the points table after their nine-wicket win against Kings XI Punjab on Sunday (May 14), with 18 points from 14 games, winning nine and losing five. They will meet table-toppers Mumbai in Qualifier 1 at the Wankhede Stadium on May 16.
“Everyone has contributed in all the games,” stated Rahane after the game. “Starting from (Rahul) Tripathi, (Steven) Smith, Stokes got a hundred, Mahi bhai (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) played a crucial knock against Sunrisers Hyderabad. In the bowling, everyone chipped in a little in between. Imran Tahir was really good for us. The team effort was brilliant throughout all the matches.”
Pune’s bowlers, Shardul Thakur (3 for 19) in particular, vindicated Smith’s decision to bowl first on the dry surface at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, bundling out Punjab for just 73 in 15.5 overs. Rahane felt Punjab shot themselves in the foot by going ultra-aggressive on a surface where strokeplay wasn’t easy.
“This one is on the drier side,” said Rahane. “It wasn’t easy for the batsmen initially. I think they were trying to score 170-180 from ball one. But the wicket was around 130-140. It was really slow and the ball was gripping a bit. Even in the second innings, in the first two-three overs, the ball was coming really slow.”
Rahane felt the bowlers’ effort throughout the tournament was especially commendable, given that the Indian bowlers in the side were relatively inexperienced compared to the Indian bowling talent in other teams. Thakur, 25, has yet to play an international game, while Jaydev Unadkat, 25, has played one Test, seven One-Day Internationals and one Twenty20 International.
“We have Eric (Simons, the former India bowling coach) who works with our bowlers, all our bowlers, especially Indian bowlers because they are not that experienced compared to other teams,” explained Rahane. “So it is difficult for them to bowl under pressure. The way they bowled in all the games was good. I think our planning was on the spot, especially in this game.”
How Pune cope with the unavailability of Stokes and Tahir going forward will be crucial. Stokes has been a key cog, taking 12 wickets at an economy rate of 7.18 and scoring 316 runs, including a hundred, at a strike-rate of 142.98 in 12 games. Rahane said his absence would be felt in all three departments, but felt the side had adequate back-up.
“We will miss Stokesy, he’s done really well for us with bat, and in bowling and fielding,” admitted Rahane. “We have a few internationals who are experienced and have done well in this format. Lockie Ferguson has done well in that one game he played. Usman Khawaja is here. We’re not sure who’s going to play. All the Indian players, all the batsmen are doing well. We are sure we will do well in playoffs.”