So the Rajasthan Royals alumni ‘Rockstar’ Ravindra Jadeja has indirectly kept RR alive in the race by beating their close competition the Kolkata Knight Riders. But his heroics will hold no significance if the Royals can’t win both of their next games, the first of which comes against Kings XI Punjab tomorrow. This game (Much like all the remaining games) will be instrumental in the playoff race and may just decide who makes the cut. Let’s see how it may unfold…
Kings XI Punjab
- KL Rahul (c) (wk)
- Mandeep Singh
- Chris Gayle*
- Nicholas Pooran*
- Glenn Maxwell*
- Deepak Hooda
- Chris Jordan*
- Murugan Ashwin
- Ravi Bishnoi
- Arshdeep Singh
- Mohammad Shami
The Kings XI Punjab have been the Cinderella Story of this year’s IPL. In both the previous seasons, KXIP started off unbelievably well in the first half of the tournament, but then completely blundered their advantage in the latter half of the tournament and ended up at embarrassing spots on the Points Table. But this season, the tides have completely turned. 2020 has thrown us yet another shocker and KXIP have made a sensational comeback to win 5 out of 5 games in the back-end of the IPL. And this has propped them up to that sacred No.4 spot that is still keeping this IPL’s TRP up there.
KL Rahul might just prove to be KXIP’s best ever player in their entire history. He put in two excellent seasons in 2018 and 2019, but this year has just been out of the world. It’s been even more special. Mainly because this time, he has done it as the captain of the side. Many doubted his ability to handle the pressure that comes with leading a side and being the lead batsman. Their doubts were only amplified when KXIP lost 6 out of their first 7 games and KL Rahul made comments such as ‘I’ll get the orange cap off (one of his teammates) and ‘strike rate is overrated’. But since then, he has been nothing but class, both as a captain and a player. It’s too early to say, but KXIP might have given birth to Virat Kohli’s successor for the Blues.
The Middle Order Issue Solved
The issue for KXIP in the previous years was that while KL Rahul was clicking, the rest of the batting lineup seemed like headless chickens. Well, that’s certainly not been the case this year. Mayank Agarwal had been arguably the best batsman in the whole tournament before that unfortunate injury. Mandeep Singh has come in as his replacement in the XI, and has managed to put aside personal tragedy (the passing away of his father) to pull out a match-winning performance in the previous game. Nicholas Pooran has been striking sixes with amazing impulse divided by time (had to do physics today), and Punjab haven’t lost a single game since they brought the Universe Boss Chris Gayle in the team. He’s just been that big of a game changer.
The bowling unit looks quite improved too. Mohammad Shami has just looked unstoppable with the new ball this season, and they have found him a good companion in Arshdeep Singh, who is Punjab’s homegrown talent and has shocked everyone with his variations and calmness. Another member of the biggest finds of this IPL is Ravi Bishnoi – the leggie from Rajasthan who was India’s best bowler in the U-19 World Cup and has been the IPL’s best young bowler as well. He has been quite economical, and has shown an eye for the big wickets. Murugan Ashwin and Chris Jordan complete a decent bowling attack.
- Ben Stokes*
- Robin Uthappa
- Sanju Samson
- Steve Smith* (c)
- Jos Buttler* (wk)
- Riyan Parag
- Rahul Tewatia
- Jofra Archer*
- Shreyas Gopal
- Kartik Tyagi
- Varun Aaron/Akash Singh
The Rajasthan Royals haven’t had an IPL like the Kings XI where at one moment everything was horrible and then suddenly everything was as glorious as could be. Rather they’ve had a very topsy-turvy roller coaster-y campaign. Since those 2 wins in Sharjah, it’s been rather gloomy with the occasional moment of joy. And right now, they will be feeling neither gloomy, nor joyful. All they’ll be feeling is giddy with nerves, because this match will decide their future (And so will the next).
If you need to win 2 games out of 2, you’d want to have some mass times velocity (come back after you’re done searching it up) on your back. And what is better mass times velocity beating the top ranked team of the tournament! And pretty comfortably at that. The win against MI will give them heaps of confidence for this game, and the fact that it was players like Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson and Shreyas Gopal – players who haven’t been having the best of seasons – who stepeed up, will encourage them even more.
1 and 2
The management kept backing Stokes as an opener through one failure after another, so I would be surprised if they chose to demote him now after he played, possibly the best innings of IPL 2020 in the previous game. They have also backed Uthappa through disappointing outings, and I’m not sure they would like to change a winning combination. So the opening pair seems set.
3 and 4
The No.3 and No.4 positions are still a worry though. In the previous game, Steve Smith came in at No.3, put in a woeful performance and got going in a hurry. Samson, practically batting at 3 too, since Smith got out so early, bagged a half-century and got RR home quite easily. Steve Smith has failed every single time he has walked in at No.3 this season. Every single time. So I really hope he can rectify the recurring error and finally fix his position at 4 for once and for all. Jos Buttler at 5 is a bit of a waste of resources, but oh well. You never know when this RR team is going to collapse, and you need an experienced figure like Buttler there to handle the heat. I hope he doesn’t get given the same role next season too though – he’s the best non-Indian T20 opener, we really can’t be permanently demoting him.
The 5th Bowler
So the only main change RR need to make is that 5th bower. That used to be Jaydev Unadkat till AB De Villiers went about being AB De Villiers. Then came Ankit Rajpoot. He was given just 2 overs in 2 games, and he was decent in both of them. But then came his 3rd game. He got 4 overs, and he went for 60 runs. It was like he had developed a really strong bond with Steve Smith and wanted to prove Smith’s decision to not give him more than an over to be right. So he has got to be out.
If Varun Aaron is fit, he has to come in. But I’ve been hearing talks of him being injured. In that case, the young local Rajasthani quick Akash Singh might have to come in. He has some good pace and swing, and formed a formidable pace pair with Kartik Tyagi in the U-19 World Cup, but to push such an inexperienced youngster into such an important game is asking for trouble. So RR might play the leg spinner Mayank Markande instead, but that is only possible if Ben Stokes is fit enough to bowl at least 2 overs, which he hasn’t been in previous games. 3 spinners is always a big risk, but it does yield big rewards too. Specialy on a pitch and a ground like Abu Dhabi. I think the time is ripe for the change.
Interesting Matchups – Jofra Archer vs KL Rahul will definitely be the battle to watch out for in this game. I have a feeling KL Rahul will just play out Archer’s over and not give him any openings. Especially when his opening partner looks like a complete walking wicket for Jofra, he will have to play with caution. Pomises to be an epic matchup for sure.
Tewatia vs Cottrell – I know this isn’t happening but please Kumble Sir please make it happen, us RR fans will be forever indebted to you. A lifetime supply of, well, yes, it will be arranged, just make it happen…
Prediction – RR.
My Current Prediction Counter – 30-18