When Ben Stokes was bought by the then named Rising Pune Supergiants for INR 14.5 crore (£1.7m), a record fee for a foreign player, it felt as though he was on a hiding to nothing in the tournament. Those of us who have watched Stokes develop into the world class player he is knew he was worth the investment but I doubt many expected him to universally win over the doubters and light up the competition as he has. Stokes has, in my view, been the major factor in turning Rising Pune Supergiant from the laughing stock they were last year (thanks to their ridiculous name and astrologically minded owner) into the first finalists at this years competition.
It was a low-key start for Stokes with his debut against Jos Buttler’s Mumbai, taking just one wicket (Kieron Pollard) and scoring a useful 21 which was overshadowed by Steve Smith’s 84. This match did begin a trend of victories for Pune over rivals Mumbai, a trend which continued in the semi-final despite Stokes’ absence. In the second game of the tournament against Kings XI Punjab Stokes was utilised at 4 and came in the 7th over, hitting three 6s and two 4s in a 32 ball 50. Pune entered a run of three defeats after the opening game, including the match against Punjab. In this run Stokes was consistently the most economical seamer for his side and it would be his performances that would drag the side up the table. Heading to the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore Pune needed to defend 161 on a ground famous for its runfests. Stokes took 3-18 from his 4 overs, getting the big wicket of Virat Kohli and bowling Shane Watson and Adam Milne. This was Stokes’ first man of the match award and, despite a minor injury which saw him miss two games, his form was to continue.