back icon


How do you get past this Rajasthan Royals unit?

article_imageMATCH STORIES
Last updated on 27 Apr 2024 | 07:29 PM
Google News IconFollow Us
How do you get past this Rajasthan Royals unit?

Every time you feel that, 'ah, that’s the end of the Royals’ winning streak', in comes a monumental victory

Do you remember the time when Pep Guardiola’s FC Barcelona were running riot? 

Game after game, they found new heroes while still playing a very attractive brand of football. You wouldn't find anything more fluid every time the ball was passed. 

What made it even more special was that everyone knew what they had to do; that role clarity made them stand out. You could visibly see that the opponents were thoroughly frustrated. They also went on these winning streaks, often forcing the opponents to shake their heads in disbelief.

"How could a team be possibly this good???" - that was on the lips of every football fan. It was frustrating when it came against your team and blissful against any other opposition. 

Something similar is brewing in the Indian Premier League (IPL). 

Rajasthan Royals (RR) are running riot. The worst part about all of this is that the entire league knew that they were going to cook and cook hard. They had all the ingredients to cook the best dish, and they haven’t just cooked one top dish; they have made a buffet of top dishes.

Whatever Sanju Samson has touched has turned into gold. 

In the first five clashes this season, it was evident that the Royals were turning towards the duo of Trent Boult and Nandre Burger to pick up wickets in the powerplay. The duo were terrific, with nine wickets between them, averaging 16.2 and 24.8, respectively. If Boult didn’t get you, it was almost sure that Burger would get you. 

When the South African pacer was out with an injury, it could have broken them then and there, but Rajasthan’s depth of resource was such that all they had to do was rearrange their bowling unit. 

Sandeep Sharma, who hadn’t been used in the powerplay for a long time, was thrown the ball back in that phase, and the veteran responded in fine fashion. In RR’s last four games, that has been a major reason behind their stranglehold in the powerplay, with Sandeep striking three times in 24 balls. 

Sandeep’s bowling show is even more special because he’s done all of this while conceding at just 5.7. Not only has he derailed the batting unit of opponents, he has also slowed them down to a level where it has become nearly impossible for teams to catch their breath. Samson’s utilisation of the veteran has been such that he doesn’t overbowl him. 

If anything, Sandeep's been tasked to pick up wickets alongside the usual suspect, Boult, whose role over the last two years has been tied down to just contribution in the powerplay. On April 27 (Saturday), while Boult picked up Quinton de Kock, Sandeep delivered the killer blow of removing history-maker Marcus Stoinis for a duck. 

A true Samson masterclass.

Lucknow made a solid comeback, with a stellar partnership between Deepak Hooda and KL Rahul, scoring 115 off just 62 deliveries. It was a partnership from the top draw, taking them to 126/3 from 11/2. That’s where, ideally, a true test lay for the Royals, with Nicholas Pooran walking out to join an in-form Rahul. 

But these are the Royals. They almost walk into every situation with at least two plans. In a venue like Lucknow, where there are bigger square boundaries, the plan was to bowl the ball into the surface and let the slowness of the surface dictate terms. 

50% of their deliveries at the death were either off-length or short, and those short deliveries were particularly effective in getting both Pooran and Rahul out. It was game awareness of the highest order. And, the way they executed their plans, it felt like a script written too well, almost worthy of winning the Oscars.

It was also mightily effective because it was the go-to-length for most of their death-over bowlers, including Avesh Khan and Sandeep, who thrived on those lengths. In this IPL, Sandeep has bowled two full overs at the death in the good length area, where he averages SEVEN!!! 

Royals had planned it to near perfection, so much so that the best of death-over batting units - LSG - could only score 46 runs despite only losing three wickets at the start of the 16th over. 

That’s a bowling unit that didn’t have a lot of help - in terms of wickets - from their premier bowler, Ravichandran Ashwin. But his contribution was evident in how he helped them control the game, with tight overs in almost every clash, barring that against Kolkata Knight Riders. 


There’s enough said and written about the Royals’ openers. 

They are the most destructive batting units in the powerplay when they fire on all cylinders. But what has made the Royals’ setup this year special is how they have won a majority of their games without much contribution from either Jos Buttler or Yashasvi Jaiswal. 

That’s because of their dynamic middle order, which time and again has stepped up when the team has needed them. One of the biggest reasons that the Royals don’t have one particular batter topping the run charts is because there have been contributions from two - Sanju Samson and Riyan Parag. 

After trading Devdutt Padikkal to LSG, RR’s plans were clear for Parag, and the results took care of itself, with the Assamese all-rounder owning the No.4 spot, notching up runs for fun. Not only was he scoring runs, he was doing it with an intent that even his idol could only dream.

But at 78/3 after 8.4 overs, even the most in-form Parag could only tuck his bat under his armpit and walk back to the dressing room. The pitch wasn’t getting any better, and there was a huge task in front of RR, against a bowling unit that thrives in home conditions and defends totals for fun. 

One mistake they made in the clash against KKR was promoting Ashwin to No.5 in a mammoth run-chase. They quickly realised that and did not even enter that territory on April 27 (Saturday) against LSG. Instead, they turned their attention to Dhruv Jurel

Before today’s clash, Jurel had only batted five times in the tournament. After using him at No.6 in their first two games, they earmarked the No.5 spot for him, delaying the entry point of both Shimron Hetmyer and Rovman Powell, who are known for their power-hitting. 

It was the best solution in a troubled situation like today’s, and pairing him with Samson was a decision next to none. No other team has managed to stitch up as many crucial partnerships in this year’s IPL. Whatever the opponents have done, it has only been outsmarted by one certain Samson - who has developed a knack for building huge partnerships this year. 

In three of RR’s last 100-run partnerships, one name has been constant, and that is Samson. When Jurel walked out to bat, he was well aware of that. He knew a match was to be won, and Samson, too, was aware. 

The pair stitched up a 121-run partnership in just 62 deliveries, favouring the leg-side boundary. Interestingly, the pair targeted the pacers, something even the opposition skipper, Rahul, pointed out in the post-match presentation. Against pace, the duo struck at 253.3, scoring 76 runs in just 30 deliveries. 

“There were 2-3 overs when Krunal bowled really well and squeezed them, but then they attacked the fast bowlers. I couldn’t get a good time to get Bishnoi, wanted to keep him for the backend when Rovman and Hetmyer came out to bat because we know he can bowl well to them,” Rahul said in the post-match presentation. 

But that didn’t mean that they let spinners go. In Ravi Bishnoi’s only over of the innings, Samson took it upon himself to do the job. It felt like Bishnoi could have been the trump card on a two-paced wicket. Instead, he played the run-chase into Royals’ hands. 

First, he hit him through the vacant gap on the leg side for a four before lofting him over the cover region for another four. After being hit, Bishnoi did alter his length but to no avail, bowling a half-tracker to Samson, who didn't miss. 

That very over-decided that the rest of the game would only be a formality. It was only fitting that Samson hit the winning runs and, in return, yet again, showed the selectors who bossed the choice to become India’s first-choice wicketkeeper at the 2024 T20 World Cup. His yell was quite a significant one, far away from the calm and composed version that is often projected. 

In case numbers prove anything, Samson (385 runs) is only behind Virat Kohli (430) regarding runs scored. When you look at the other metrics, like the best middle-order batter in this year’s competition, no other Indian batter has as many runs as Samson’s 385 at No.3, 4 or 5. 

Was this all only a thing of luck and prayers? 

“The guys who came in and bowl one over in the power-play do an important job. There has been a lot of planning behind the scenes,” certainly, this quote from Samson doesn’t indicate it. 

Like how Rome wasn't built in a day, this RR juggernaut has been three years in the making. They have worked on every bit of their shortcomings to build an army that is taking over all grounds in the country - one at a time.

Play Asli Fantasy on Download the App Now.

Related Article