Preview: Rajasthan Royals v/s Mumbai Indians

Match 44, Ahmedabad

The Royals have, once again, under the tutelage of Rahul Dravid, punched above their weight in a competition where fairytales are less likely to occur every year. The 2014 season though, can boast of the KXIP team steamrolling opponents with their distinctly Sri-Lanka-of-96 style of play, but the Rajasthan Royals aren’t far behind. They will play the Mumbai Indians, who are absolutely disenchanted with the cruelties of T20 cricket, in a match that could pretty much seal the Royals’ spot in the playoffs. The Motera pitch suits their style of all-round play, while the Indians will look to win a few of their final 4 games, after being all but eliminated by their insipid performance against the Knight Riders.

RAJASTHAN ROYALS

They have won 7 out of 11 games after a shaky start, and are now the in-form team along with the top 2. A win here and they could seal 3rd place, and leave the last spot open for a dogfight between KKR, SRH and RCB. Their cricket has been consistent and efficient—nothing overly spectacular, but they’re getting the job done. The roles are defined well, and West Indian Cooper entered the side against the Daredevils to prove his worth as a useful all-rounder again. With Australians like Smith and Faulkner, who have on more than one occasion pulled off miracles for the side, the Royals continue their perpetual underdog status in yet another edition of IPL cricket. Captain Watson has also understood the worth of youth in the side, giving much responsibility to Nair and Samson at the top, continuing the legacy of Shane Warne. In Ahmedabad, he will trust his top order to come good on a baked afternoon pitch, with Rahane finally showing some form. There is no better time for him to attack with his spinners like Tambe and Tewatia, considering the Mumbai Indians’ reluctance to promote Pollard and Anderson to the top of the order.

X-factor: Pravin Tambe. The 43 year old youngster is once again the fairytale story of Indian cricket, and shockingly, could push for a place in the limited overs national side if he continues to bamboozle international opponents.

MUMBAI INDIANS
Rohit Sharma is a disheartened man. Less than 8 months ago, he was on top of the world after leading his team to a rare Double (T20 cricket league, Champions League) in a successful 2013 season that resurrected his own career. Here, after 10 games, his team his second from bottom on the table and is struggling to gather any kind of momentum. In their must-win game against KKR, they once again remained stubborn and counted on their ‘hitters’ to get them to a fighting total after ‘building the innings’ till the 16th over. Sharma was responsible himself, at one stage 11 of 24 balls, and he must understand that this strategy does not work anymore in a tournament where teams like KXIP have destroyed the concept of Middle Overs. The team thinktank, no doubt behind this ‘keep wickets in hand’ strategy, has failed to find themselves suitable middle order batsmen. Pollard fired in a few games only, and looks out of sorts if he comes in after the 17th over, and doesn’t seem to be enjoying his time in the team. Anderson’s role is undefined, used as a floater, and he hasn’t shown why he was bought for a whooping price at the auction. His bowling has been mauled, and even Malinga is leaving for international duty soon. With just 3 wins out of 10, the Indians will now look to spoil the Royals’ party in Ahmedabad, and play party pooper for the other 3 teams fighting for a playoff spot.

X-factor: Nobody

Prediction: A Royals’ win.

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