Onus on Rahane and Thakur to score a home run

Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur are established cricketers at the international and domestic circuits, respectively. However, despite their exploits in red-ball cricket, the opening batsman and the fast bowler have had to work hard on proving their mettle as white-ball experts as well.

While Ajinkya Rahane was ignored in the initial few years of the IPL, Thakur has risen to prominence over the last three years.   -  PTI

The Indian Premier League has undoubtedly emerged as a platform for Indian domestic players to showcase their skills. However, for a majority of its 10 editions, most IPL franchises have tended to ignore the local talent, instead preferring to rely on players from other states to deliver for the franchise.

Mumbai Indians is one such franchise which has drifted away from local players over the last few years. As a result, captain Rohit Sharma will be the lone local warrior for the home team when it takes the field during the Qualifier at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday. The opposition, however, will have two Mumbaikars gunning to make a statement and help Rising Pune Supergiant make the final of what could well be its last week in the IPL.

Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur are established cricketers at the international and domestic circuits, respectively. However, despite their exploits in red-ball cricket, the opening batsman and the fast bowler have had to work hard on proving their mettle as white-ball experts as well.

Rahane's rise

Rahane struggled to cement a place in the Mumbai Indians team for the first two seasons. Only when he moved to the Rajasthan Royals in 2011 did he flourish as a T20 batsman. No wonder then that whenever he has returned to the away dressing room of the Wankhede Stadium during the summer bonanza, the Mumbai Indians has felt the heat more often than not.

In his five innings at Wankhede against Mumbai Indians, Rahane has tallied 164 runs at an average of 41 and strike rate of 131.20. That the opening batsman's average and strike rate both are higher than those in his overall T20 career is a testimony to the fact that he relishes playing against Mumbai Indians.

Thakur's transformation

While Rahane was ignored in the initial few years of the IPL, Thakur has risen to prominence over the last three years. Even when he was creating all sorts of problems for the batsmen in Mumbai's white flannels, he didn't get anywhere close to the Mumbai Indians' blue jersey. In fact, even during his two-year stint with Kings XI Punjab stint, he got only one game before being released ahead of this season.

The sturdy bowler, however, has made a telling statement during his 10 appearances for the Pune team this year. The marked improvement in his skills with white-ball has not only helped the Supergiant finish second in the league stage but also catapulted the bowler as the reserve pacer for India's Champions Trophy squad.

During the Supergiant's visit to Wankhede earlier in the season, neither Thakur nor Rahane, who had walked away with the man of the match award in Mumbai last year, had an exceptional outing. If at least one of them has an exceptional outing on Tuesday, the home crowd could well end up rooting for the visiting team.

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