Young Indian players carve new Pune identity
Where they finished
Runners-up, after finishing second in the league stage.
Rising Pune Supergiant's bowling was consistently good across the various phases of the innings. In the Powerplay, they gave away 7.89 an over and took 28 wickets - the second-best after Mumbai Indians. Their figures in the middle overs - 7.06 and 45 wickets - were the best. And they tied with Sunrisers Hyderabad for the highest number of wickets at the death - 40. In all, they conceded 7.83 an over - the lowest in the season - and topped the wicket charts with 113 scalps. Additionally, the 797 dots they sent down were second only to Mumbai.
A much more well-rounded team performance after a debut season where they finished seventh out of eight teams. In 2016, only Ajinkya Rahane crossed 300 runs; this time, five of their batsmen did so. The same holds true for the bowling. They had a strong core group, with Jaydev Unadkat, Imran Tahir, Ben Stokes, Daniel Christian and Shardul Thakur efficiently splitting wicket-taking duties.
The Indian quartet of Rahul Tripathi, Unadkat, Washington Sundar and Thakur became prominent as the season unfolded. Tripathi was consistently belligerent, striking at over 146, and at one point had seven thirty-plus scores in eight innings. Unadkat's intelligent variations in pace earned him a hat-trick against Sunrisers, and he finished behind only Bhuvneshwar Kumar with 24 wickets. Thakur and Sundar also put in clutch performances; the former in their last league game - a must-win against Kings XI Punjab - and the latter in the first qualifier against Mumbai.
Ben Stokes, the most expensive player at the auction, was Pune's MVP. The England allrounder did it all - 316 runs at a strike rate of 143 including a century, 12 wickets at an economy rate of 7.18 and two of best catches in the tournament. Pune also made a smart move by replacing the injured Mitchell Marsh with Tahir. The legspinner was their second-highest wicket-taker with 18 scalps at 20.50. They also reaped the benefits of identifying the right combinations after an early slip in the league stage and possessed sufficient back-up. Stokes and Tahir's departures for national duty did not affect them with young domestic talent stepping up.
The big Indian names. Rahane largely had a forgettable season. He still ended as their third-highest run-scorer but did not show the consistency of seasons past, with two half-centuries in 16 innings. MS Dhoni won them a few matches, including the first qualifier, but his season was strewn with glimpses of his waning hitting prowess. His average of 26.26, despite receiving a fair few chances to bat higher up, was his lowest across IPLs, as was the strike rate of 116.
Rahane's underwhelming season reflected directly in their opening partnerships. Pune managed an average first-wicket stand of 23.87, which was better than only Delhi Daredevils. The scoring rate of 7.34 an over for that wicket was also the worst in the tournament.
Ashok Dinda was among Pune's senior-most Indian pacemen but ended up playing only three matches. That was down to his returns in those games: 119 runs in 10 overs for one wicket.
The missing ingredient
Allrounders. When Pune first formed a team in 2016, they had only Mitchell Marsh as a frontline allrounder. Once he was injured, they struggled to fill the void of a seamer and a big hitter in the middle. This time, they bought Stokes, Daniel Christian and Saurabh Kumar at the auction. While Saurabh did not play a single game, the other two played big roles. But Pune did not have depth to fall back on had an injury befallen one or both. To their credit, however, they coped well with their specialists performing their roles well.
Out of their control
Sports hernia kept R Ashwin out of the season, while Marsh was ruled out having undergone shoulder surgery. Stokes was unavailable for the playoffs, while Tahir returned to national duty before their final two league games.
Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo