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Match Analysis

Royals dare to dream as Jaiswal's emergence amplifies Buttler's threat

Royals were perhaps overdependent on Buttler during his monster 2022 season, but he has a proper sidekick now

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
A message flashed on the giant screen in Guwahati on Saturday afternoon, when Yashasvi Jaiswal and Jos Buttler were making a competent Delhi Capitals attack look pedestrian. "Jai and Viru of the Rajasthan Royals".
The reference here was, of course, the two iconic characters from the Hindi blockbuster Sholay. In Indian pop culture, these words signify a special partnership, and that's exactly what Buttler and Jaiswal have forged at the Royals.
Of the ten most prolific opening pairs in the IPL since the start of the 2022 season, Buttler and Jaiswal have the second-best run rate (9.51), behind only Prithvi Shaw and David Warner (9.81). Look at the names trailing in their wake.
On Saturday, Jaiswal played proper cricketing shots to begin with. Except they were all flying to the boundary, with Khaleel Ahmed despatched for five fours in the first over of the day. It started with a whip over midwicket, followed by a slap over square third. Then a bludgeon over extra-cover followed by a fluent lofted drive down the ground. He ended it with a caress over short third.
No inhibitions, no treading cautiously to gauge the surface. It was clean, instinct-driven batting, and he was reacting to the ball, not the bowler.
In the next over, Buttler showed scant respect for the pace of Anrich Nortje, reeling off one off-side boundary after another. Within no time, the pair had reeled off eight fours in the first two overs.
It was almost as if the two were competing shot for shot, until it got to a point where Buttler backed off after a reprieve by Nortje at mid-on when he was on 18, and allowed Jaiswal to take centrestage and bring up a 25-ball half-century.
When the Royals lost Jaiswal and Sanju Samson in successive overs, Buttler allowed his experience to kick in, holding back slightly until he got a half-tracker from Axar Patel in the 13th over. Out came a savage pull into the stands to raise a 31-ball half-century. As he so often does, Buttler was showing he has all the gears while still scoring quicker than most others in his role.
This transformation into an IPL beast didn't happen overnight. It took shape in 2020, when he opened in his first seven innings of the season, and reached double figures six times while only going big once, scoring a 44-ball 70 against Mumbai Indians. When Ben Stokes, who was backed to be an opener, joined the Royals later in the season, Buttler requested a switch to the middle order to take back the role he had played for the bulk of his T20 career.
A finger injury ruled Stokes out of IPL 2021, and Buttler had the opportunity to open once again. This time he didn't look back, and finished the season with a maiden IPL hundred. The following season, 2022, brought even more sumptuous returns - a chart-topping 863 runs at an average of 57.53 and a strike rate of 149.05, with four hundreds.
Buttler's runs propelled the Royals all the way to a runners-up finish, which was perhaps a fair reflection of a sense that they were perhaps overdependent on him. So far this season, Jaiswal has matched Buttler shot for shot and score for score, with both scoring two fifties in three innings. It's still early days, but the Royals may just believe they now have the firepower to reclaim the trophy they defied the odds to win a decade-and-a-half ago.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo