IPL 2021: Royals face tough test against Capitals

Ayaz Memon/Mumbai
Filed on September 25, 2021 | Last updated on September 25, 2021 at 01.28 am
Steve Smith, Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada of Delhi Capitals during the match against Sunrisers Hyderabad. (BCCI)

In the absence of Archer and Stokes, RR's bowling is weak

Rajasthan Royals were involved in the most exciting match yet of the second phase when they beat Punjab Kings in a pulsating climax. Only two runs separated the two teams as PBKS floundered in the closing stages of what should have been an easy run chase. Ten runs were needed off 15 deliveries, but PBKS batsmen lost their nerve, leaving RR unlikely, but delighted victors.

Two points in the first match was a massive boost for RR, but more important was how they battled the odds, not throwing in the towel when KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal were putting on a blazing opening partnership, keeping alive their self-belief that things could still swing their way. The moot question now is whether Rajasthan can sustain momentum.

The season did not start auspiciously for RR. Bowling spearhead Jofra Archer was injured before the tournament started and is still absent, not having recovered fully. Ben Stokes got injured in the first match of the season, returned home and while his injury has healed, he’s taken time out from the game on mental health grounds.

Jos Buttler has skipped the second phase as he has recently become a father.

Losing three such stalwarts would be a severe handicap for any side, so when the league resumed, not many people believed RR would make much headway. The stunning win over PBKS, however, has raised hopes in their ranks, and trepidations among rivals. But this comes with conditions attached.

There is a certain carefreeness about RR’s approach – especially in batting -- which is exciting to watch when it works but makes them look highly vulnerable when it doesn’t.

The inclusion of Evin Lewis and Liam Livingstone gives the batting firepower and in form players at the top. But for consistent success, runs from skipper Sanju Samson, Riyan Parag and all-rounders Rahul Tewatia and Chris Morris are crucial.

In the absence of Archer and Stokes, RR’s bowling is weak, so the batting has to benchmark itself at a higher level. While batsmen taking risks is imperative in T20 cricket, the collective effort can’t be so mercurial as to create chances for the opponents.

Certainly not against teams like Delhi Capitals who notched up a hugely impressive win against Sunrisers Hyderabad in their opening match.

It was a muscle-flexing performance in which both batsmen and bowlers from DC shone, serving a warning to other teams.

With Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Shimron Hetmyer in the top order followed by all-rounders Marcus Stoinis, Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin, DC’s batting is not easy to contain. The bowling is equally resourceful. Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje make the most potent pace pair in the league with Avesh Khan splendid as the third seamer, and Stoinis to fill in whenever needed. In the dugout are Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav!

The spin department is rich too with Axar, Ashwin and Amit Mishra, each of a different style. Mishra did not play in the last match but is an option that DC can always deploy depending on the pitch or the quality of opposing batsmen. A good blend of experience and youth, plus an evident hunger to succeed makes DC the team to beat.

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