The importance of being cool
"It's a high-pressure game, and you need cool heads," said Darren Berry, the Rajasthan Royals director of coaching. He was replying to a question on ageing stars, and the selection of two players who could be considered part of his playing generation - Lee Carseldine and Shane Harwood.
Both were playing their first games of the tournament, and both came through with big performances when it mattered. Despite another horrendous start with the bat, Rajasthan stole this game because they had the players that made sensible decisions when the going got tough. It was no coincidence that Harwood was in the middle to help complete the recovery job that Carseldine had started.
Once again though, it was the Rajasthan's unheralded collection of Indian talent that caught the eye. Kamran Khan may be out for the season with his knee injury, but in Abhishek Raut, a 22-year-old Maharashtran with no claims to fame, they appear to have unearthed another finisher in the Pathan mould. In a previous game, he pillaged 18 from the final over, and here, his 36 from 23 balls saw his team home after both Shane Warne and Yusuf Pathan had succumbed to Bollywood strokes.
Jeremy Snape, who takes care of the mental conditioning side of things for Rajasthan, called Raut an "effervescent cricketer", and he was certainly bubbling at the end after the risky single that clinched the game. The key moments though had come a little earlier, with Yusuf clobbering sixes over extra-cover and square leg. Shoaib Ahmed had starred in the domestic one-day season, with more than 20 wickets, but Yusuf in rampant mood was a completely different proposition. Those two hits brought down the run-rate to such an extent that the rest of the game was a stroll.
"There's so much coaching in the game now that you can complicate things," said Snape. "Some players overthink. With Yusuf, we keep it simple. He's one of the cleanest strikers of the ball in the game. So we stick to a simple plan, and a simple thought process."
The decision to keep Yusuf down at No.8 was certainly a gamble, but it worked primarily because Carseldine, Player of the Year in Australia's Big Bash this season, batted with such composure before a horrendous decision sent him on his way. "The one thing that we really knew about him was how composed he is under pressure," said Berry. "With Shane Watson [last year's star] now missing, we needed someone like that at the top of the order."
Deccan Chargers are now in the midst of a slump after four successive victories. In addition to Rohit Sharma's embarrassing boundary-line gaffe in the penultimate over, there were a couple of missed run-out chances and the simplest of fluffed return catches [Venugopal Rao letting Shane Warne go]. "On another day, the 20 percent that's bad goes unnoticed," said a rueful Adam Gilchrist later. "But today, those were the key moments. In general, I thought our fielding was exceptional."
They do need more runs from other sources though. Gilchrist started brightly today, but Gibbs failed, and it was left to Rohit to lead them to a competitive total. But like Rajasthan, there doesn't seem to be enough depth to the batting. T Suman, who has replaced VVS Laxman in the side, showed promise again, but with Fidel Edwards leaving for England this weekend, Andrew Symonds can't arrive soon enough. He could well be the X-factor that Deccan lack in mid-innings. Rajasthan, for all their worries, continue to find the most unlikely ones.