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Analysis

Should RR use Ashwin in the powerplay vs RCB - with bat and ball?

The tactical match-ups and strategies to watch out for in the Eliminator in Ahmedabad on Wednesday

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
21-May-2024
They were No. 1 and No. 10 just after the halfway stage of the league phase, but now Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) have all the momentum coming into the Eliminator against Rajasthan Royals (RR). RR won the only league match between these two teams but a lot has changed since then: Virat Kohli is playing his best T20 cricket, the RCB bowlers are turning up, and RR have lost steam and Jos Buttler. Here are some tactical moves to watch out for in the Eliminator in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.

Who replaces Buttler?

Of all the teams in the playoffs, RR have been the most old-fashioned, almost like vintage CSK. Their batters prefer to take their time before hitting out, and their bowlers have covered for them, at least in the first half of the season. They are the fifth-slowest scoring team, but second best when it comes to bowling economy. So they should keep an overseas slot open for either the fast bowler Nandre Burger or left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj to back their strength. Especially since Burger had success in the previous match against RCB, and Maharaj's bowling style is more effective than others against Kohli despite a stellar IPL.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore appears to be a direct replacement for Buttler, but he has batted more at No. 3 and 4 than as an opener. So if RR bat first, they can bring in Kohler-Cadmore in case of early wickets, and otherwise follow through with their extra-bowler plan. If they end up bowling first, they can start with three overseas players - Boult, Burger/Maharaj, Powell/Hetmyer - and decide if they need the extra bowler or batter.
An out-of-the-box idea is to open with Yashasvi Jaiswal and R Ashwin, not to pinch-hit but to bat properly and set up the innings for the middle order.

Bowl Ashwin in the powerplay

Trent Boult might not be taking wickets of late, but he has to open the bowling not least because he enjoys good match-ups against Faf du Plessis, Rajat Patidar and Glenn Maxwell.
Kohli is in the T20 form of his life and he has been enjoying left-arm pace. His match-up against Ashwin, though, is tantalising. Throughout their long T20 careers, they have respected each other: Kohli doesn't take risks against Ashwin, who doesn't go searching for a wicket against Kohli. It is worth asking this new version of Kohli to chance his arm against the unerring Ashwin. He also enjoys good match-ups against du Plessis and Patidar despite them being right-hand batters.

Avesh, Sandeep for death

Yuzvendra Chahal has a good record against du Plessis, Kohli and Dinesh Karthik, but Maxwell and Cameron Green have both been good against the two RR spinners. Looking at that, RR might not save an over from Chahal for the death, and go with the pace of Avesh Khan and Sandeep Sharma instead.
RCB will want one of Maxwell and Green at the wicket for the last 10 overs and should look to split the two as they did in the last match, when Green batted at No. 4 and Maxwell No. 6.

Maxwell to open; Dayal vs Jaiswal

Yashasvi Jaiswal has a good record against Maxwell but 20 balls is a small sample size. Given RR are the third-slowest side in the powerplay this IPL, it is never a bad time to get in a couple of cheap overs from a part-timer.
If Maxwell can bowl tightly, it opens a window for Yash Dayal to go searching with the new ball. Dayal should bowl ahead of Mohammed Siraj because he has got Jaiswal out twice in 12 balls for 11 runs. An early wicket or two can challenge RR's plan of playing the extra bowler as Impact Player.

Siraj for Samson

Opening the bowling with Dayal and Maxwell gives RCB with the option of going to Mohammed Siraj when Sanju Samson comes out to bat: he has got the RR captain out three times in 31 balls.
Lockie Ferguson, who has been used in the second half of the innings by RCB, will play a key role when Shimron Hetmeyer or Rovman Powell bat. He enjoys a good match-up against Hetmeyer: 25 balls, 26 runs, one wicket.

Win the toss and?

The new ball moved around in Qualifier 1 and there was dew later on so the team that wins the toss would want to chase. RCB have a 50% win-loss ratio while batting first and chasing, but RR have done better when chasing, winning six and losing two. They have failed to defend a target three times out of five.

Sidharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo