Pune started off their campaign in the tenth IPL edition with a lot of topsy-turvy situations, as the franchise took the decision to replace captaincy by offering it to Australia’s Steven Smith from ex-India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
For Pune to finish the league stage of IPL 2017 at the second place after a shaky start is phenomenal. How the youngsters Jaydev Unadkat, Shardul Thakur and Rahul Tripathi have contributed well for this turnover for the franchise.
Ben Stokes, who at Rs 14.5 crore became the most expensive overseas purchase ever, shrugged off a poor start to the season by claiming three Man-of-the-Match awards to drive the side’s surge up the points table. After a brief injury lay-off, Stokes marked his return to the playing XI with a maiden T20 century, 103 not out off 63 balls to win a thriller against the Lions.
Although Stokes had already played a lot of international cricket, the Englishman believes that he has learnt a lot from playing in the IPL, that he got to share his game, ideas and skills with best players of the world.
“The thing about international cricket is that you never really get to know the guys you play against,” Stokes said to The Telegraph. “The T20 leagues allow you to actually know an individual… I’ve been fortunate to share the dressing room with MS and Steve and the likes of Faf du Plessis as well.”
Stokes also revealed a side of wicketkeeper-batsman Dhoni, saying that the former India captain always keeps an ear (and his door) open, if anybody wants to talk to him.
“In the hotel, MS keeps his door open and anybody can go in. He’s been very accommodating,” said Stokes.
“On the field, MS epitomises calmness and, from a cricket point of view, has the best angle in terms of field placements,” he continued.
Smith’s leadership seems to have turned RPS’ fortunes around, as they look forward to the knockout stages of the competition. However, Stokes believes that MS Dhoni has been instrumental behind Smith’s leadership.
“Obviously, Steve’s the captain, but he’s aware that MS has the best angle and, so, has worked with him in setting fields. Indeed, Steve and MS have worked really well together,” he said.
There is a lot at stake, as the winning team goes straight into the final to be played in Hyderabad on May 21, while the loser gets another chance in the Qualifier 2, to be played on May 19 in Bengaluru.