Troubled Royals aim to continue fairytale
Match factsFriday, May 24, 2013
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
If Rajasthan Royals are able to produce two more good games, it will be a fairytale for them, according to their captain Rahul Dravid. In many ways, irrespective of what happens next, it is already a fairytale, one that has played out alongside a horrid nightmare during the past week. For a side like Royals to stand on par with and challenge the mightiest of IPL franchises, such as Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians, is nothing short of a fairytale.
Sanju Samson, Dishant Yagnik, Stuart Binny, Vikramjeet Malik, Pravin Tambe, and Siddharth Trivedi up against million-dollar superstars. Unknowns against men such as Lasith Malinga and Kieron Pollard, who have defined Twenty20 cricket. A think-tank of Dravid, Paddy Upton, Monty Desai, and Zubin Bharucha, against a think-tank of John Wright, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Anil Kumble, Jonty Rhodes and Robin Singh. "We don't believe in having bowling and fielding coaches," Dravid said. Belief comes automatically when you can't afford to have the luxury of a bloated support staff.
Even in a format that reduces relative superiority due to its crunched length, the second qualifier looks like a no-contest. But this is a knockout bout. Players and sides do strange things under pressure, especially in T20. They do stranger things in a T20 knockout situation. Ask Mumbai Indians. It's a phenomenon that keeps getting stranger and stranger with every passing season: they are yet to win an IPL title in five previous attempts. Their embarrassment of riches somehow turns into a proper embarrassment come knockout time. The latest instance was the first qualifier against Super Kings two days ago.
Dravid was right when he said after winning the eliminator that the pressure was on Mumbai Indians. Royals have made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. They had little to lose against Sunrisers Hyderabad, and they will have less to lose against Mumbai Indians, a side that will feel it has not done well if it does not win the title, according to Dravid. Not only was that a smart way of reminding the opposition of the cross of expectation they bear, it was also the bitter truth.
Still, if Mumbai Indians had been asked to pick an opponent in a knockout situation, they would probably have chosen Royals, and would probably hope they could play the match as if it was a regular league game.
Form guide(Most recent first) Mumbai Indians LLWWW
Rajasthan Royals WLLWW
In the spotlight
Talent is supposed to meet opportunity in the IPL. The former word has become almost synonymous with Rohit Sharma, and the IPL is one place where he's delivered. With men such as Tendulkar and Ponting in the team, Rohit was handed the captaincy, and racked up win after win in the league stage. He also holed out at the first sign of pressure in the qualifier against Super Kings. Mumbai Indians will expect a much cooler head from their captain in the knockout.
There could have been a stage during the past week when Rahul Dravid would have wondered what had he done to face such adversity at the sunset of his career. "Like bereavement," he called it. When one ran into some Royals players at the Hyderabad airport last Sunday, you could see they weren't thinking about the eliminator in Delhi. All they wanted was to get away from the glare, back to base in Jaipur, and spend a few quiet days there. Dravid spoke of how the squad shared "a lot of emotions" during conversations. He would have been at the forefront of those talks. A reserved, private man going out of his comfort zone to ensure his players felt comfortable again. The poker face should be back on at Eden Gardens.
Stats and trivia
- James Faulkner's 5 for 16 against Sunrisers in Hyderabad are the best figures this season. The next-best figures, 5 for 20, also belong to Faulkner, and also came against Sunrisers, in Jaipur.
- Stuart Binny has bowled the most economical spell this season, 2-0-3-1, against Delhi Daredevils in Jaipur. Mitchell Johnson has the joint third most economical full spell, 4-0-8-2, against Pune Warriors in Pune.
- This is the first time Lasith Malinga has conceded more than 400 runs in an IPL season
- Rohit Sharma has had his most productive IPL season - 534 runs at a strike-rate of 134.84
Quotes"It was a very tough phase for us. It was a blow to the team. It's something I have never experienced anything like. It's like bereavement in some ways."
Rahul Dravid on the arrests of three of his players in the spot-fixing controversy
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo