IPL 2021: Royals sense an opportunity against fragile Sunrisers

Ayaz Memon/Mumbai
Filed on September 26, 2021
Rajasthan Royals skipper Sanju Samson was the lone batsman to defy the Delhi Capitals bowlers. — BCCI

Sanju Samson's team are still in with a chance to make the playoffs

In Saturday’s match against Punjab Kings, Jason Holder took 3-19 and made an unbeaten 47, yet Sunrisers Hyderabad lost the match by five runs. The irony gets even more bitter when you consider that the target was a modest 125.

True, the pitch wasn’t conducive for batting, but there couldn’t have been a better opportunity for SRH to lift themselves from the floor.

It’s been a disappointing, dismaying season for the Sunrisers. Before the IPL got suspended in May, they’d won only one match and were placed at the bottom of the points table.

In the week since the tournament resumed, they remain in the same position with the added misery of being knocked out of the playoff race.

Even allowing for the vagaries of cricket — more so in the T20 format — this is unusual for a team that has been among the most consistent over several seasons. SRH may not have won multiple titles, but they generally hover over the top half of the table. They are always a team that no opponent could take lightly.

This season everything seems to have gone asunder. The batting form of the talismanic David Warner — the team’s best scorer for years — waned alarmingly. A string of defeats also led to the captaincy being taken away from him. Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, two seasoned pros, skipped the second phase. Kane Williamson, who is now leading the team, has also hit a trough, making measly runs in the two matches played.

The veteran Manish Pandey is also struggling to find rhythm, which exposes the lower order far too early. To compound matters, T Natarajan, among the best exponents of swing and seam bowling in this format, tested positive for Covid-19 and has had to be sidelined. Swing ace Bhuvneshwar Kumar has looked off colour.

Precocious leg-spinner Rashid Khan is the only player to have delivered consistently amid the mayhem, supported every now and then by all-rounder Holder.

What SRH have been seeking desperately is cohesive team effort, at least a couple of batsmen and bowlers pulling their weight, which can lead to victory.

Out of contention for a place in the playoffs, this is a testing time for SRH, especially captain Williamson. In such hopeless situations, player morale can collapse. This is terribly important to address for his own position. Also, there is an opportunity to try out some players from the squad in place of those fatigued and demoralised. Essentially, SRH need to find the right combo, and rediscover mojo, to end the league on a winning note.

For Rajasthan Royals, who are only one place above SRH in the points table, the situation is vastly different. Six points separate tonight’s rivals, so RR are still in with a chance to make the playoffs. But for that they need consistency, which has so far proved elusive, as the form of the team swings from the brilliant to the banal.

After the sensational last-over win against Punjab, RR fans hoped for more exciting performances. But against Delhi Capitals, the batting flopped. Sanju Samson was the lone batsman to defy the bowlers. While Delhi have a potent attack, RR weren’t chasing a massive score.

Losing three wickets in the powerplay, including those of Liam Livingstone and David Miller, made the situation irretrievable for the Royals.

Without Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler, RR have kept their ambition and enthusiasm admirably alive, but must show the wherewithal to win matches consistently, not intermittently, to break into the top 4.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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