The clock is ticking on Rajasthan Royals. Five games in, they are above only Royal Challengers Bangalore - that should tell you where they are placed on the table now. Two weeks down the road, their stars will be back to their respective countries for World Cup camps. Therefore, the onus is on them to start winning and stay alive in the competition.
For that to happen, Royals could begin by rethinking their selection. Ben Stokes has had a poor IPL season by any standards - 76 runs in five innings, four wickets, and an economy rate of 10.84. Rahul Tripathi, batting out of position in the middle order, has managed 80 runs in four innings.
Can they now find a way to replace them with Ashton Turner, who brings with him no baggage and quite a bit of middle-order muscle? How about Mahipal Lomror to do Tripathi's job, instead of a classical opener in Prashant Chopra, who featured in their previous outing? Lomror is a middle-order batsman, whose strike rotation has been a standout for Rajasthan over the last few domestic seasons. His awareness of surfaces prepared at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium could help too.
On the other side, Chennai Super Kings seem to be walking on water, cruising high and happy at the top of the table. Dwayne Bravo not there, no problem. No David Willey? No worries, mate. No Lungi Ngidi? No issues, machan. Less than six hours after hammering Kolkata Knight Riders at home, they were back at the airport for a three-hour flight. They'll just have enough time for a pool session and a short team meeting (maybe?) before they're out in the heat again.
As such, it's unlikely that a side that makes a mockery of T20 analytics and data would be concerned over Shane Watson's form and the fact that he's been out the most times of any batsman in the Powerplay this season. For all you know, he'll take a liking to the conditions on Thursday. Remember, he played eight seasons for the Royals.
Bottom line: One side yearning to get their personnel right, another hardly fretting over theirs.
In the news
Bravo is likely to sit out for another 10 days nursing his hamstring injury. There are no other injury concerns for Super Kings. Royals are waiting on Sanju Samson, who has a Grade-1 thigh strain. He missed Royals' last two games and "won't be rushed back," according to batting coach Amol Muzumdar.
A vintage MS Dhoni innings - one that ended with three sixes off the last three balls - tipped Chennai Super Kings from par score to winning score. Then their bowlers clinically applied the choke on a slow Chepauk surface, overcoming a late surge from Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, to win by eight runs.
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 2 Jos Buttler (wk), 3 Steven Smith, 4 Prashant Chopra, 5 Ben Stokes/Ashton Turner, 6 Mahipal Lomror, 7 Shreyas Gopal, 8 Jofra Archer, 9 Varun Aaron/K Gowtham, 10 S Midhun, 11 Dhawal Kulkarni
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Faf du Plessis, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Deepak Chahar, 10 Scott Kuggeleijn, 11 Imran Tahir
- Jaipur will provide some zip for the fast bowlers, but Jos Buttler's weakness against spinners can't be overlooked. His strike rate against them this season is 108.6, as compared to 146.8 against fast bowlers. Super Kings could look to bring on Harbhajan Singh and Imran Tahir to neutralise Buttler's threat. Harbhajan, in particular, has made a conscious effort to try and slow it down in the Powerplay. This season, 71% of his deliveries have been in the speed range of 70-90 kph. He's been rewarded with five wickets and an economy rate of just 5.30.
- Shane Watson has the highest boundary percentage against spin this season, even higher than Andre Russell, at 86.30. The slog-sweep has been his go-to stroke against this variety of bowling. Rahane could do well to take note, and not throw the new ball to K Gowtham as he's often done this season. The offspinner has managed just a solitary wicket in five outings, conceding 8.53 an over.
Stats that matter
- Dhoni is a win away from being the first IPL captain to 100 wins.
- Jadeja, formerly with the Royals, is two strikes away from 100 IPL wickets.
- Royals' boundary percentage of 51.01 in the first 15 overs is the lowest among all teams this season.
- Watson is 31 runs short of 1000 T20 runs at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo