This will be remembered as Supergiant Season


successfully bid for the Pune franchise as a stop-gap arrangement in the wake of the suspensions of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, everyone involved was well aware that it would be only a two-season involvement in the Indian Premier League.

Now, with four days left in what has been a topsy-turvy ride over 2016 and 2017, Supergiant finds itself one win away from a situation where the defending champion will not participate in the tournament’s next edition.

When such a scenario loomed in the UEFA Champions League in 2006, an exception was made and the previous year’s winner Liverpool was included in the draw despite not making the Premier League’s top four.

Closer home, after its fairytale journey to the I-League title, Aizawl FC would not be part of the Cup division should the AIFF decide to go ahead after all with its idea of an integrated league for next year.

Regardless of the team’s future, the owners could well be a part of the next season, with Sanjiv Goenka confiding to The Hindu prior to the start of the tournament that given an opportunity he intends to remain involved in the IPL, and there is speculation that the group is set to buy out one of the existing franchises.

Irrespective of what happens to the team next year, the manner in which Steven Smith’s men have turned the tables after a forgettable 2016 season is commendable.

From finishing second from bottom last year to storming into the 2017 final, it has been an exhilarating comeback.

Bold decisions

Retaining the core of the last year’s group, the outfit made some bold decisions ahead of this season, including replacing the all-conquering Mahendra Singh Dhoni with Smith as captain, and breaking the bank for England all-rounder Ben Stokes at the auction.

As vindication of all of that, Supergiant is now the first team to book a place in the final.

Not that it has been a smooth ride, though. Having suffered a hat-trick of losses and languishing at the bottom of the table when the team travelled to Bengaluru on April 15, the team was in danger of not living up to its potential like last year.

Ajinkya Rahane would later pick that the victory against Royal Challengers as the turning point in the side’s campaign. Supergiant has indeed won nine of its 11 matches since.

The hallmark of this purple patch has been collective performance; team effort, as Rahane said after Supergiant’s final league game on Sunday.

In its last 10 wins, including Tuesday’s Qualifier-1 against Mumbai Indians, Supergiant has seen seven different players winning Man-of-the-Match. Moreover, seven of the 10 have been awarded for bowling performances.

No wonder then that no team has managed to cross 170 against Supergiant for six matches now. At the Wankhede too — though on a pitch that was not the usual flat deck — the Pune side comfortably defended 162 on Tuesday night.

Even if the coming Sunday night does not go in its favour, Smith’s side has ensured that IPL 2017 will be remembered as Supergiant’s season.

And, considering the form the team is in, whoever the opponent is, it will take a monumental effort to ensure that the engraving on the trophy does not say ‘Rising Pune Supergiant’.