1 Oct 2020

Royals face nightmare as Mavi and Nagarkoti strike big!

By cricinsane

Matchday 12 witnessed the table toppers Rajasthan Royals face head on against Kolkata Knight Riders who had proved their strong point in their victory over SRH. Royals were sitting comfortably at the top of the table after two massive run feast in Sharjah courtesy to the heroics of Samson and Tewatia. They literally took the match from nowhere and made an affirmative claim that Royals could be one of the teams to watch out for in this season. However, they were made to travel from Sharjah to Dubai for their match of Dream11 IPL 2020 and conditions were completely different. The dimensions of the ground was very huge and a score of 160-170 was equivalent to 200+ in the other ground owing to the fact that chasing had always been difficult.  Any team batting here should work with plans to carefully steer through the game in sections (i.e) strategies for powerplay, middle overs and death overs. However, Rajasthan’s worst nightmare came glaringly before them when they completely failed to operate in parts over the three sections of the game, both while batting and bowling.

Following footsteps of his leader

Smudgy Smith won the toss and elected to bowl first and he went with the same combination which came victorious against KXIP. God Tewatia became an overnight sensation with his twitter account following count climbing from 1063 followers to 13k+ and counting within an hour and much was expected from him. Another budding super star Shubman Gill opened the innings for KKR with Sunil Narine. Gill was in sublime touch as he middled the ball cleanly. Narine was delegated just to clear the ball out of the ground but he was mistiming his swings initially. Then he sent back to back boundaries before perishing to Unadkat. Rana and Gill patiently glided through the powerplay and middle overs. This game did not test about power hitting or scoring huge runs, but rather emphasized more on who adapted to the situation well and got control of it at the right time. After the quick dismissals of Rana, Gill and skipper DK, Dubai International Stadium staged the big show of Russell’s muscle and Quickgun Morgan. Dre Russ managed to find some long range hitting as he sent a few into the orbit. But Morgan was the man who played sensibly. Until the time Russell was there, he didn’t try for glory shots but quietly kept piercing the gaps. And once he faced the last 2 overs with Pat Cummins, he got all guns blazing. The experience and leadership skills he earned by captaining England certainly helped him to analyse the situation correctly and helped KKR to post a total of 174/6 in 20 overs.

Royals were struck hard by the mammoth target they had to chase under such conditions but they strolled into the field with the confidence of their previous two victories. Smith and Buttler came to face the searing pace of KKR. There started the downhill roll for the Royal battalion. Smith looked very rusty and he tried to attack his countryman Pat Cummins in the very second over the match. The Royals should have had clear plans to see through the powerplay and build the innings certainly after that. But Smith gave 3 chances of consecutive deliveries before he holed down to the third one going after a mighty heave. He went back shaking his head but was neither helpful for him nor his team. Sensational Sanju Samson came at one drop and got off the muk in flying fashion. He timed a couple of deliveries beautifully and looked like he was all set to pull another ripper of a chaser. But opponent skipper DK isn’t any easy man. He deployed his teenage cannon Shivam Mavi. Mavi had grown great heights throughout last season and within 3 matches he proved his mettle. He bowled at speeds clocking 140kph and maintained tight lines and length. His discipline was rewarded indeed well with the big fish Samson playing an absolute no brainer shot to land into the hands of Sunil Narine. Following him came his partner in crime Kamlesh Nagarkoti who took two scalps in his first over to remove Robin Uthappa and Riyan Parag thereby reducing the opponents to 42/5. It was then a one sided game for KKR before Tom Curran came out to blow a few balls around the park while the innings was wrapped up at the other end by the spinners.

Some serious issues that Royals possessed had to be explored. Although the Royals looked like a powerful team on paper, their reality was not the same. They had a fragile batting core and had a huge hole in their middle order. With their best player Ben Stokes yet to return to IPL, they have the services of players like Miller to fill in the gap. But the Indian contingent looks completely worrisome. This defeat indeed showed them the mirror of reality and exposed their weakness. As early as they faced it, the more time and opportunity for the team to regroup themselves. Primarily RR has to stick to some serious batting plans. Although sending Tewatia up the order against KXIP was a wonder move, it will not work out everytime. They need an anchor as well an accelerator to switch gears correctly depending on the pace of the game. If Uthappa is trusted with opportunities, he should be sent up the order to open with Buttler. This could ease his nerves as well as the number 4 position seemed too much of a burden on him. Steve and Samson can alternate between 3 and 4 positions just like how Kane and Manish did the other day. Once the top 4 is set for any run chase, it would be easy for the following players. If RR would not require the bowling services of Parag, he can be substituted with Manan Vohra who is a more senior player in the mix. Tom Curran can be sent at 6 and Tewatia at 7 could be the ideal tail that they expect for. Or if they wished to replace Miller, they can drop Curran and get an Indian seamer like Varun Aaron. Also their bowling needs to be more streamlined as well. Only Jofra ‘the Octopus’ Archer and Unadkat bowled economically while Gopal, Curran and Rajpoot had a bad day in the office. If they were to beat mighty teams like MI and DC in upcoming games, they need to fix this issue immediately. Smith must show more patience and ease of the pressure from Jos and Samson as they can easily turn the tides of the game. With rigorous practice, Royals should also religiously pray for their best player Ben Stokes to return quickly to answer their worries. This was indeed a much needed wake up call for Royals and I hope they captivate their chances.