Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) skipper Steven Smith hoped that Ben Stokes’ stunning unbeaten century in their win over Gujarat Lions (GL) would settle the debate whether the English all-rounder was worthy of a high price tag. (Match highlights)
The spotlight and scrutiny doubled up ever since Rising Pune Supergiant shelled out Rs 14.5 crore in the auction to hire Stokes. (Scorecard)
At 42 for four, the stage was perfectly set for Stokes to show his worth. Stokes played one of his smartest innings in T20s, an unbeaten 103, and forged a 76-run partnership for the fifth wicket with MS Dhoni to put RPS back in the hunt.
A cramping Stokes took the team through with some lusty blows towards the end.
“You obviously tell him his role and how he’s going to fit into the team. He knows that now. We’re 10 games into the tournament, so he’s pretty clear with that. Obviously, we missed him in the last few games but guys stepped up and did a good job. We paid a big amount to get him. We know he’s a quality player. Certainly earned his cash tonight,” said a satisfied Smith after their five-wicket win at the MCA Stadium here on Monday.
While Stokes’ bowling was falling in place, his batting form remained a concern with a string of low scores since his half-century knock against Kings XI Punjab in their second game.
“He’s been hitting the ball really well. He’s been involved in some good partnerships as well. We’re very happy with where he’s at and how he’s played. Tonight was a fantastic innings under pressure, to get us home the way he did. He hit some very clean balls there, chose the right balls to hit too. Timed it to perfection. Tremendous knock,” said Smith.
Was the high price tag playing on his mind in the IPL? “Nah, he’s always said from the start that he judges himself on how he plays. He’s not going to put any extra pressure on himself just because he has a big price tag next to his name. We were very excited to get him.
“I had said before the auction to the guys just do what you have to to get him. All-rounders are so valuable in T20 cricket and he bats, bowls and fields well. He’s a perfect fit for our team, particularly after Mitch Marsh was ruled out as well. He’s done a terrific job for us and hopefully he can continue to perform and get us into the Qualifiers and the finals in the back end of the tournament,” said Smith.