HYDERABAD: Rising Pune Supergiant might be packed with cricketing heavyweights, but skipper Steve Smith Saturday credited the youngsters for the team s success in the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament. Pune s Indian talent in Washington Sundar and Rahul Tripathi have won crucial games for the side that boasts of star players like Smith, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ben Stokes.
Opening batsman Tripathi (388 runs in 13 games) remains Pune s second highest run-getter behind Smith, providing the team with many quick starts in the current season. But it was lanky off-spinner Sundar who made heads turn with his match-winning haul of three wickets against Mumbai Indians in the first qualifier to seal his team s final spot.
The 17-year-old Sundar made up for the absence of Stokes, who returned to England for national duty after playing a key role in the team s entry into the play-offs. “Those guys are quite young and have not played those high pressure final games. That can play into your favour sometimes. They can play with freedom and do the job,” Smith told reporters on the eve of the IPL final against Mumbai Indians in Hyderabad on Sunday.
“I thought Washington was absolutely fantastic the other night in Mumbai. For a 17-year-old to come out against some quality players and do what he did was outstanding. “The young guys have been a real big part of our success so far throughout this tournament and hopefully they can have better success tomorrow night,” Smith said on Saturday.
Smith, who replaced Dhoni as the team s captain ahead of season 10, said it had been a pleasure working alongside the former India captain. “It has been a lot of fun to work with Flem (team coach Stephen Fleming and MS (Dhoni) obviously,” said Smith, who has scored 421 runs in 14 games. “Played some pretty consistent cricket at the backend of this tournament which is really important heading into the business end,” added Smith, who is also the Australian captain.
Meanwhile Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma downplayed his side s fourth appearance in an IPL final, insisting the team is keen to continue playing their aggressive brand of cricket. Two-time champions Mumbai ended table-toppers after a consistent showing in the league stage, but made the finals only after beating Kolkata Knight Riders in the second qualifier.
“I will have a third chance for the title tomorrow but the whole focus has to be playing the right game,” Sharma said of his team that won the title in 2013 and 2015. “It s important for me to make sure that we play the cricket that we are expected to play,” he added of his side, which has won 11 of its 16 games this season.