Before the season started, Rajasthan Royals (RR) were tipped by many to progress far in the tournament. The inaugural winners way back in 2008 had assembled one of the best squads in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Well, many cricket pundits were of the view that during the mega-auction, in January, Royals bagged best in business.
The top-order was introduced with skipper Ajinkya Rahane and Big Bash League (BBL) sensation D’Arcy Short. The middle-order had availed the likes of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Rahul Tripathi and Sanju Samson.
The bowling lineup was also looking equally impressive. Jofra Archer, Ben Laughlin, Jaydev Unadkat, K Gowtham – all proven customers were bought up by the Royals.
However, 11 games into the season and the Royals have failed miserably to justify the expectations. As of now, they are languishing at sixth position in the table with just four wins in 10 games.
The Royals are facing a must-win situation in all the remaining games. A fine 15-run win over high-flying Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) have given them the much-needed momentum. They will be looking forward to building on it when they host in-form Chennai Super Kings (CSK) on Friday.
Ahead of the game, former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar insisted Royals will face an upheaval task against Chennai. At the same time, he said that the Royals can spring a surprise if they play with positivity.
“Rajasthan Royals got their campaign back on track with a fine win over the Kings XI Punjab. Having lost to them just a couple of days earlier they would have been a touch nervous but despite KL Rahul’s excellent batting they held their own to win,” Gavaskar wrote in TOI.
Gavaskar further said that the lack of a good finisher has hurt the Royals this season.
“They now have another mountain to climb against the red-hot or is it bright yellow Chennai Super Kings if they play with the same positivity that they displayed against the Punjab team then they could spring another surprise,” he added.
The likes of Stokes and others have failed miserably in the middle order. Buttler had also struggled in the middle order before he was promoted as an opener and the move has paid off.
“Their batting hasn’t quite fired and they haven’t had a good finisher and that’s why they haven’t quite got the scores that they should have. Ben Stokes hasn’t made the impact he did last year and that’s understandable since he was out of top cricket for quite a while and got back a little over a month ago. He still is the guy the opposition fears the most because class is a class and he can get a form back anytime,” Gavaskar further wrote.
The wicketkeeper-batsman has scored three fifties on the trot. However, his promotion has made the middle-order even more vulnerable.
“Jos Buttler is rebelling in the opening batting position and is giving the brisk starts but he is not quite getting the support from the others. Jofra Archer has shown what a talent he is as a bowler but has disappointed as a batsman so far,” he added.
On the other hand, the Super Kings will be looking to seal their playoff spot.
Currently second in the points table, the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side has won seven of their 10 games. The visitors looked almost unstoppable, this season. They will enter the contest after a six-day break and will be looking to hit the ground running.
Gavaskar said that the break would have helped Super Kings players recharge themselves before stating that the upcoming game could spring a surprise as far as the result is concerned.
“Chennai have had a bit of a break which must be good news for Mahendra Singh Dhoni who has had a troublesome back, not that a niggle is ever going to stop him from turning up for his favourite team. He has silenced his doubters with his awesome finishing and winning games off his own bat,” Gavaskar maintained.
“On the form, it could be a one-sided match with Chennai winning easily but this is T20 and Rajasthan like Mumbai may just be starting to find the winning rhythm,” he asserted.