Can Royals get two bites of the cherry?
Thrown into several difficult situations, Rajasthan Royals have responded quite impressively to emerge as one of the most consistent and dangerous sides of IPL 2022. Their middle-order fragility has been a cause for concern, but over a span of 13 league matches, the Sanju Samson-led outfit has often found heroes to take them home. The biggest plus for Royals this season has been the team effort, with the bowling unit being central to their success.
With many positives in the bag, Royals will take the field for their last league match on Friday at the Brabourne Stadium against out- of- contention Chennai Super Kings with eyes on the second playoff spot. The Lucknow Super Giants (LSG), who finished playing their quota of league games on Wednesday, are currently in possession of the second berth, but a win will put the Royals ahead on better net run rate.
While Orange Cap holder Jos Buttler has begun to lose steam, youngsters Yashasvi Jaiswal and Devdutt Padikkal have shown responsibility. And Shimron Hetmyer's return takes away the middle-order concerns. But do the Royals have the luxury to afford Buttler's slowing down? In the last four matches, where the English opener registered scores of 22, 30, 7 and 2, Royals won two and lost two.
Of course, they will hope for Samson to chip in. His current strike rate of 153.41 in 13 games, where he has scored 359 runs, underscores his aggressive mindset, but his conversion rate after getting good starts remains an area of concern. Add to it the Royals captain's batting position that keeps floating owing to the management's streak to invent and experiment.
Unlike Royals batting department, bowling has pretty much centered around Trent Boult, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravichandran Ashwin, a bunch which gives a sturdy cushion to youngsters like Prasidh Krishna, Kuldeep Sen and Obed McCoy.
MS Dhoni-led CSK have nothing to lose. They would like to sign off on a positive note after their forgettable season that has been marred by endless struggle to get the team together on and off the field.
The two teams are heading in different directions and it would be the Royals who will be desperate for a win to finish ahead of LSG. Like Hetmyer said during the pre-match media interaction, it is always good to have 'two bites of the cherry'!