In the IPL, there’s no such thing as a must-win game in the league stages. But common wisdom suggests, the earlier a team gains momentum through collecting an early win, the better its chances for the playoffs. Having lost a game apiece, both Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils will visibly be on the edge as they collide in Match 6 of IPL 2018. These are both teams that are on the back foot having hardly looked the part of a match-winning structure as their potent squads suggest.
Not only would there be a nervousness among both sides as they meet one another but some excitement as well. After all, both winless teams would fancy their chances against one another. It is a common scenario. When you realise that the opponent has made a show of weaknesses, regardless of your outcome in the last game- you begin to fancy your chances. But that said, does it mean that Rajasthan Royals might begin as favourites?
It’s a classic IPL puzzle wrapped in uncertainty. It goes without saying that by now, both outfits- one that has already secured an IPL crown and the other, still winless- would’ve seen their opponents’ troubles in the last contest.
Knowing where to capitalise is the next obvious step. But even as to Rajasthan Royals the sight of Delhi bowing to KL Rahul’s record-breaking feat may inspire confidence, they would be well advised to take a stock of their own ensuing troubles.
1. Rajasthan Royals lack a specialist spinner
The format may be skewed heavily in favour of batsmen, but it’s spinners who often provide breakthroughs. Lest it be forgotten that these are sub-continental pitches that are often slow and turning. Starting from Rajasthan Royals’ own Shane Warne who remained in wickets in the 2008 finals, there’ve been others like Chahal for RCB, Harbhajan for Mumbai Indians and now for CSK and, Tahir for the Daredevils and now CSK. But what about a specialist spinner for RR? Could they be missing out big on the kind of advantage key lynchpins responsible for wins provide other outfits?
2. Rahane’s leadership has no track record
If you were to consider their stellar 2012-13 seasons, you would have found a great turnaround in Rajasthan Royals’ fortunes all thanks to Rahul Dravid. Back then, he created a young, ambitious team that eventually defended their fortress in Jaipur valiantly and to many match-winning results. Among Dravid’s key men in the side was Rahane- an undoubtedly talented batsman. But also one, whose leadership skills aren’t exactly known. That there is no more the experienced players like Steve Smith, Shane Watson or James Faulkner, it remains to be seen how well can Rahane utilize his key players- Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson to bring maximum from them.
3. Presence of an inexperienced lot
While no other blow may have been as defining to Rajasthan Royals’ 2018 chances as the absence of their star batsman- Steve Smith, even newly inducted talents like Heinrich Klaasen and Joss Buttler leave room for suspicion. Buttler’s recent form against white ball leaves a lot to be desired. While it may not be about their natural big-hitting abilities, it could well boil down to their lack of experience in playing on sub-continental conditions. While Klaasen’s addition is a big boost to a seemingly lacklustre batting attack, he’s hardly ever played a contest on pitches that are anything but lush green outfields back in South Africa.
4. Do Rajasthan Royals possess a game-turning batting unit?
Agreed, the presence of Ben Stokes is singularly enough to lift the confidence of everyone in Rajasthan Royals’ green room. But that Stokes’, who’s been out of competitive cricket for close to a quarter, will need to immediately adjust to a format where fortunes change every over, may just flummox him a bit. Rajasthan needs vital performances especially since they return after a two-year hiatus. And with a squad that no longer boasts of the well-rounded experience of past match-winners.
Although Sanju Samson has begun the tournament with a stroke-filled 49, he would have to keep up with scoring at more than run a ball rate. And the team will ideally need to bat around Ajinkya Rahane, instead of depending on individual streaks of big-hitting. So the question remains: “Can Rajasthan Royals pull it all together to transform into a winning outfit?”