Lucknow Super Giants mentor Gautam Gambhir was furious after the team lost to Gujarat Titans by 62 runs in their previous game. Chasing 145 to win, LSG batters folded up for 82. None of the batsmen provided a semblance of fight.
In a post-match dressing room speech, Gambhir addressed the players and said, "There is nothing wrong in losing. It is absolutely fine. One team has to win; one team has to lose. But there is a lot wrong in giving up. Today I thought that we gave up and were weak. And honestly, there is no place for being weak in a tournament like the IPL or in sport."
It was a jolt – both on the field and off it by Gambhir – that was required for the LSG boys. They were on a four-match winning streak and all seemed rosy. But in a highly-competitive tournament like the IPL no team can ever be complacent. There was a sense of complacency in the Lucknow batsmen after Gujarat were restricted to 144/4. Each batsman felt the following one would do the job.
Now that the tournament has reached its business end, LSG can hardly afford any kind of laxity. A win against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday at the Brabourne Stadium would not only seal a playoff spot for Lucknow, but also ensure them a top-two finish. It will be a massive motivating factor for the KL Rahul-led team.
Rajasthan, on the other hand, started the tournament brilliantly, notching up 6 wins (12 points) from their first eight games. It seemed their spot in the playoffs was a mere formality.
But they haven't progressed much thereafter. The Royals have lost three of their last four games and are now stuttering in the tournament. They have 14 points and need to win at least one match out of the two left to make it to the playoffs.
Rajasthan's Jos Buttler and Yuzvendra Chahal have been holders of the Orange Cap and Purple Cap for a considerable length during the tournament, but still RR haven't secured a playoffs spot yet. The main reason has been the gulf between Buttler and the next run-scorer or Chahal and the next wicket-taker. After Buttler's 625 runs (average: 56.81; 100s: 3, 50s: 3), Royals skipper Sanju Samson is next with 327 runs (average: 29.72, 50s: 2). Likewise, after Chahal's 23 wickets (economy: 7.54; average: 15.73), the next best is Prasidh Krishna with 13 victims (economy: 8.19; average: 29.61) to his name.
Buttler and Chahal will need support from other batsmen and bowlers in the team in order to put it across the formidable LSG.
The Royals are also likely to miss dynamic middle-order bat Shimron Hetmyer, who had flown back home to Guyana to attend the birth of his first child. Hetmyer had missed RR's last match against Delhi Capitals (which the team lost by 8 wickets), and there still isn't any clarity whether he has joined back the team bubble or not.
Rajasthan, however, had won the first leg encounter against Lucknow by three runs and that is certainly going to be a confidence boosting factor for the team.