IPL 2022: Gujarat, Rajasthan just one away from landing the big prize

Both teams, as mentioned often in these columns, are loaded with hugely talented players

By Ayaz Memon

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Rajasthan Royals and Gujarat Titans will be battling it out for the glistening trophy. — BCCI
Rajasthan Royals and Gujarat Titans will be battling it out for the glistening trophy. — BCCI

Published: Sat 28 May 2022, 10:54 PM

Gujarat Titans may have got the better of Rajasthan Royals in the first qualifier, but this may not necessarily translate into a big psychological advantage in the final, if the manner in which RR sent Royal Challengers Bangalore packing in the second qualifier, is anything to go by.

Only for the first half of the inning when Faf du Plessis and Rajat Patidar were together did RCB look competitive. For the most part, Rajasthan were so far superior with bat and ball, that the result hardly surprised anybody.

What will concern Gujarat is that a couple key RR players — namely Jos Buttler and Prasidha Krishna, who had struggled in the first qualifier, hit peak form against RCB and which boosted the team’s performance several fold.

Buttler had made 88 in the first qualifier, but was so badly out of rhythm that it seemed his being in the middle would be counterproductive for his team. That he found his touch towards the end of the innings was a surprise, but it gave his bowlers something to defend.

But RR’s bowling too was not at its best that day. R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal both went wicketless, which was not just unusual, but also put tremendous onus on the fast bowlers in the slog overs. With the match in the balance, Prasidha Krishna, bowling the last over, lost his nerve and control and was slammed for three sixes by David Miller, which booked Gujarat’s place in the final.

Against RCB, Buttler and Prasidha were the star influencers in Rajasthan’s win. Prasidha bowled an outstanding opening spell, getting the ball to swing and seam and extracting good bounce from the pitch. The early dismissal of Kohli stymied RCB’s aim to get more in the Powerplay and Rajasthan never relaxed the pressure after that.

RCB huffed and puffed to 157, a wholly inadequate score on a true pitch. Whatever hopes they had were on getting two-three wickets in the opening six overs, but these were dashed by a blazing opening partnership between Buttler and young gun Yashasvi Jaiswal. After the latter departed, Buttler took over as only he can, reading length, line and intent of bowlers quickly, finding gaps in the field with crisp strokes or clearing the ground with shots of exquisite timing. He did get a reprieve on 61 when Dinesh Karthik put down a dolly off Harshal Patel. Whether his dismissal could have altered the result can be debated till kingdom come. What needs no debate is Buttler’s contribution in Rajasthan’s dramatic rise and entry into the final this year. He’s got four centuries in the season, equalling Kohli’s record, and has marked himself out as arguably the world’s best T20 batsman currently.

Buttler and prasidha in peak form considerably strengthens Rajasthan and make Gujarat’s task even more challenging. Remember, Gujarat’s win in the first qualifier didn’t come in a canter. It was hard-earned, and but for Miller’s sensational last over assault, the result may have been different.

On the other hand, Gujarat have invariably found some player or the other to turn a match around, often from very difficult situations, and haven’t depended on just four or five. In a high pressure final, this could make a big difference.

What will also be crucial is the role of captains. Hardik Pandya, new to the job, has been exceptional in the leadership position, reading match situations smartly, inspiring his players to give off their best. Samson, who captained last season too without achieving the same success, has shown he is a willing learner, and has also shown more ambition to go with his natural ebullience.

Both teams, as mentioned often in these columns, are loaded with hugely talented players. After eight weeks of hard work, hitting highs and lows, Gujarat and Rajasthan are just one away from earning the coveted trophy. Only one of them can!

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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