Rajasthan Royals have an astute foreign captain; an overseas batsman acknowledged as one of the best in white-ball cricket, a Barbadian bowler who could run riot, and a Kiwi-born England all-rounder capable of doing extraordinary stuff across facets. Yet, it is their relatively lesser-known domestic names that have announced themselves in style to the fraternity this year, denying their overdependence on foreign players. It indeed somewhat reverberates with their title-winning campaign in 2008.
Keeper-batsman Sanju Samson has undoubtedly played a central part in both their victories through his confident, no-nonsense attitude, fearless and clean hitting by picking the right deliveries. Sanju Samson took charge in both the games that inadvertently encouraged his partners to do the same. It was relatively easier to do against Chennai Super Kings as there was little scoreboard pressure; however, it was the complete opposite against Kings XI Punjab.
The Kerala batsman was the last glimmer of hope after Steve Smith departed. The pressure was mostly on him to marshall the rest of the batsmen, mainly when Rahul Tewatia was struggling even to connect the ball. With 84 required off 30 balls, Samson did not lose heart and batted to limit the margin of the loss. He identified Glenn Maxwell as the bowler to go after and went for the kill, collecting 21 runs, realizing that Punjab’s strike bowlers will deliver the remaining.
Against CSK, when Rajasthan Royals lost Yashasvi Jaiswal quite early, Samson turned the tide in his side’s favour. It also gave a push to Smith, who at the other end struggled slightly to time the ball. There were glaring performances around Samson in both the games; however, none like his belligerent half-centuries that defined Rajasthan Royals’ intent. And both were worthy of earning the man of the match award. This could also be the point from where his international career takes a massive lift.
Rahul Tewatia redefined what redemption is as he muscled his way to once-in-a-lifetime-knock to complete a chase that seemed disrupted and buried due to him. While Rahul Tewatia worked his magic with the bat against KXIP, he did the same with the ball against CSK in Rajasthan Royals’ opener. The leggie struck thrice in crucial junctures to create massive dents in the opposition’s run-chase. And despite bowling only one over, Tewatia seized the opportunity he got handed at number four to stun the opponents.
Amid this, Ankit Rajpoot’s efforts in the death overs against KXIP should not go unnoticed. Like his compatriots, Ankit Rajpoot struggled in the initial overs; however, the right-arm seamer stuck to the plan of bowling wide to the KXIP’s openers in the 16th over. It ended up going only for six runs and Punjab’s hopes of reaching more than 220 looked slightly bleak. Rajpoot removed KL Rahul after going for two boundaries in his final over and ended with an economy rate of 9.75, making him the most economical that night. It remains to be seen how long a rope he receives and how much consistency Rajpoot could display.
Rajasthan Royals – moving forward this season:
The lesser-known Indian cricketers have certainly punched above their weight while there is scope for more in the coming days. Yashasvi Jaiswal, who missed out on the clash against KXIP after not impressing against CSK, would indeed receive another shot at making a statement as does a former international player in Varun Aaron and the likes of Kartik Tyagi and Akash Singh. The pair impressed in the U-19 World Cup this year.
But let’s also acknowledge the contributions of their foreign players, having thrust for different roles. Captain Steve Smith has enjoyed a stellar run so far, scoring two fifties in two games while batting at a position that he had not done before in his professional career. Jofra Archer, who hasn’t been as impressive with the ball so far, has proved that he is underrated with the bat. On the other hand, there is no question of how destructive Jos Buttler could be and the impact Ben Stokes can create for Rajasthan Royals as and when he arrives.
Having played their first two games in Sharjah where clearing the fence has remained comfortable, Rajasthan Royals will play their most fixtures in Abu Dhabi and Dubai from here on. The two surfaces are indeed tricky ones with massive boundaries on either side of the wicket. Hence, one could indeed sense a rocky road ahead. But as Tewatia showcased, heroes are born are out of adversities and there could be more following his footsteps.