RPS coach Stephen Fleming proud of the way his team played in the final

RPS coach Stephen Fleming proud of the way his team played in the final

I am very proud of the combination we put together and the campaign we ran: Stephen Fleming.

Stephen Fleming
RPS coach Stephen Fleming. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Despite a tragic loss in the IPL final, Rising Pune Supergiant coach Stephen Fleming said he was proud of the way the team played on Sunday night. It was a rematch of the first Qualifier, which saw Pune comfortably overcome their neighbours Mumbai Indians. On the night of the final, however, Mumbai broke the jinx to clinch a record third IPL title.

Both teams battled it out on a sluggish Hyderabad wicket. Mumbai didn’t get off to the best of starts as Jaydev Unadkat removed the attacking openers Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons. A late flurry of boundaries from Krunal Pandya somehow took the MI score to 129 at the end of the first innings.

RPS were on course for an easy win, but with the required run rate ballooning beyond 12 an over, Pune’s middle order fumbled in the final act. Eventually, it was just the one run that separated the two teams. The Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium saw the Mumbai Indians bench invade the pitch in sheer jubilation of yet another IPL trophy.

“It was a game of inches and metres. Steve Smith came very close to winning it in the last over and it could have been a much different story. But that was the nature of the game. It was very ebb and flow on what was quite a tough wicket to score on. We knew that it was going to be tough,” said Fleming.

We knew their bowling attack was top class. We fell behind a couple of times. We lost wickets at key times. They just hung in and created enough pressure to get across the line but it was just a great final. It was full of pressure, full of mistakes and it was full of great performances. It was a grand finish to a good competition,” he added.

At the halfway mark, nobody would have expected Mumbai to even have an outside chance. A target of 130 was never going to be challenging for the likes of Rahane, Smith, Tiwary and MS Dhoni. Nevertheless, a few mistakes from RPS turned out to be costly as they let a thrilling final slip away.

Happy at the halfway mark

“We were happy. The way we bowled and went about our work was very good. One-hundred and twenty-nine, if you asked us that as a score in a final to chase down, you would take it every time,” Fleming said. “We were calculated in the field. Some of the outs were very pleasing in terms of field positioning and tactics we used. Batting wise, it was always going to be a grind,” Fleming added.

Full marks to the RPS bowlers, who stifled a batting heavy Mumbai side throughout the first innings. In particular, Jaydev Unadkat shone with the ball, finishing with figures of 2/19 in his four overs. It was his spell that had started it all for RPS, as he got rid of the dangerous Parthiv Patel and then sent Lendl Simmons packing with a stunning one-handed return catch. The Supergiant, however, would have missed Ben Stokes’ services in the all-important final.

“We were a batter short with Ben Stokes not being here. We were playing an extra bowler and we were a little mindful of that. The best way was a couple of partnerships and gain momentum. We saw Smith and [Ajinkya] Rahane come close to that. We just lost wickets at key times and it kept them just in the game, and then they came home with a real rush,” he quipped.

“If you lose three for 20, then it’s game on. It was always going to take us a partnership to get close but we just could not get the one or two overs when we were close to putting the game away,” he said. “We lost wickets, or they bowled a good over. It was never going to be a wicket where they could blast your way through. When we played against [Sunrisers] Hyderabad, we found that as well. Just batting deep was the best opportunity and we could not get over the line [tonight],” he added.

Batting on a two-paced wicket

“The wicket was two paced. Both teams struggled to play aggressively on it. The number of boundaries that were limited and the mis-hits that came along suggested inconsistent bounce and reverse swing. It was a tough track to score on, but the bowling on both sides was outstanding. We have some good bowlers who have performed well in that type of conditions for most of the tournament and we were at it again today. They have some good pace bowlers who did a great job, especially in the last four or five overs,” the former New Zealand batsman said.

In hindsight, Fleming was pleased with the way the boys shaped up. Although he felt that Pune ‘weren’t the most skilled side in the IPL’, he agreed that the team had ‘players stand up from nowhere’. The duo of homegrown pacers Unadkat and Thakur rose to the occasion towards the business end of the tournament. Rahul Tripathi, a name nobody would have heard of had it not been for the IPL, was another major contributor to the team’s success.

Stephen Fleming on the team’s environment

“We have created an environment where some players have been able to excel. Jaydev has been extraordinary again today, so has been Rahul Tripathi and Tiwary. Big stars have stepped up at key times as well. Ben Stokes was fantastic for us,” Fleming shared.

“Steve was the captain this year and MS Dhoni slotted in to the role of a senior player very easily. He is a proud man but he is humble man. We saw the interaction between the two and other leaders, Faf du Plessis as well. So leadership was never going to be a weakness for us. It was a case of making sure all our leaders were contributing in the right areas,” he added.

“I am very proud of the combination we put together and the campaign we ran. We would have loved to have sat here and had the icing on the cake but it does not change the feelings about the work that we put in during the year to get to this point,”

The former Kiwi opener might have had his last day at the office as coach of the Rising Pune Supergiant. With the team’s 2-year agreement coming to an end, RPS and Gujarat Lions will make way for the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals, who will return after a gap of two years. When asked about the future of the team, Fleming said, “We concentrated on getting this game through and finishing as well as we could and then whatever happens after this, I am not sure anybody knows about it to be honest,” the RPS coach said.

In retrospect, the Supergiant did well to reach the final on the back of a disappointing season. Moreover, the side had lost some of their key players this season but managed to pull up their socks at the right time.

“We didn’t spend a lot of time on working out what-ifs. It was purely what we could control and that was getting into the final. Secondly, we lost some players on the way to the final so that was a big goal to get here [to the top two] and then hopefully play two good games. And we came pretty close,” Fleming concluded.