Match#52: Rajasthan Royals v/s Chennai Super Kings
Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur
Form: RR- Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Draw, Win, Win, Win, Loss,
CSK- Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Win, Loss,
In a rematch of the Royals last game (that duly resulted in them surrendering the knockout advantage to RCB), Chennai will look to inflict further misery on a demoralized team that is yet to come to terms with some shocking but inevitable news of the retirement of their captain. Yes, Warne is going- and he hopes that this might inspire his troops to go for broke in their last 4 games.
Unfortunately, even winning 3 out of 4 might not be enough- considering the way this league is panning out. If not for Chris Gayle, things would have been very very straightforward indeed- Sid Mallya would not have ‘kissed’ an unwilling Deepika, and Papa Mallya would have been transported back to the golden days of 2008- with Charu Sharma as adviser.
Coming back to the battle at hand:
Rajasthan Royals: (Winners 2008)
Not the best time for your captain, soulmate and ‘cool’ father-figure to announce his retirement at the end of this year’s IPL- which, one suspects, will not be more than 4 games for the perennial underdogs Rajasthan Royals. With RCB clearly in pole position for the last knockout place now (or even for 3rd- depending on the choke-o-meter of KKR), the Royals will once again go home empty handed after yet another promising but almost-there performance. Much like Arsenal football club.
I’m a bowler! a bowler! That is my identity!
But now that Rahul Dravid clearly looks like the best batsman of the team- and Shane Warne the best bowler- this team that openly takes credit for promoting young talent and promise has been left redfaced by the lack of penetration this year. Johan Botha has been the pick of the Royals so far- and Taylor has shown signs of his unorthodox-gully-cricket ways. But that’s about all.
Ashok Menaria has flattered to decieve- and seems to be enjoying his bowling more than his batting- especially after Sachin decided to derail Menaria’s career by getting decieved and stumped to the youngster (yet another left arm spinner). Sadly, MI seemed to have faked the Royals out- knowing very well that CSK will maul Warne and co. if they keep up the same intensity.
This game, one feels, will be the make-or-break game for the Royals- and another loss to the Super Kings (at their own fortress) in consecutive games will put to rest all the talk about ‘team Rajasthan’ proving that stars are not the be-all-and-end-all of T20 cricket. Tell DD and Bangalore- for they seem to be banking on individual brilliance consistently enough to light up the bored faces of many a neutral viewer (who were actually contemplating flocking theatres to watch Haunted-3D).
Can Shane Warne mastermind a final hurrah and dismantle a Chennai team that looks primed to reach their third final in 4 years? Retirement be damned- this is what will define his tireless IPL legacy!
Player to watch out for: Shane Warne
The blonde bombshell (pun intended) might, in all probability, manage to subdue the champions- but, as has been the case for the last few editions- it is the manner in which they follow up a big win (read next game) that really matters in the longer run. And with that run now down to a 100 metre sprint to the finish line- nothing less than 4 wins in their last 4 games will get the Royals across. Warnie, one suspects, will play a pivotal role- whether bowling, batting or captaincy- in determining their immediate future.
Chennai Super Kings: (Winners 2010, Finals 2008, Semi finals 2009)
After struggling against a home-inspired KKR outfit that had duly taken lessons from the Kochi ground staff (for the sake of an ‘even contest’- complete with a rain dance), CSK will now take on yet another homebred Royal Tiger that does not like drifting out of its territory much (for fear of being shot down by someone’s jealous husband. Right, Warne?)
Time to bleed blue?
Of course, Chennai have duly gotten rid of that ‘one’ game where every top team decide to emulate the bottom team as a show of support and brotherhood. Mumbai did that against Rajasthan at this venue- and Chennai have done their good deed at Eden Gardens.
To beat the Royals at home will require considerable skill (apart from possessing skin that automatically grows back when burnt due to excessive heat)- and Dhoni will find it a bit of a headache having to play away from home just when they were looking good to steamroll their way to another title. They can be sure of the fact that it will NOT rain- and they can claim to have outlasted the Royals in their own den over 40 gritty, unglamorous overs. (sans Liz Hurley and the works)
Badrinath is continuing to ruin Rohit Sharma’s non-existent career, and for once- Dhoni made a glaring error (otherwise known as a risk) against KKR when he promoted Morkel ahead of himself. The interesting part being- most of us were expecting the decision simply because big-hitting was the need of the hour. The pitch got the better of Morkel’s Golf swings in the end- and Dhoni was made to look like Yuvraj for once.
Player to watch out for: R Ashwin
The mellow South Indian is back in action- with two impressive wickets against the Knight Riders that confirmed his status as a ‘method bowler’. He will reel you in, let you hit a few boundaries of him- and duly use the same delivery to baffle you the very next over- oh yes, Professor Ashwin goes over his note every night- do not ever count him out. The relatively-studied McGrath would be proud.
MS Dhoni will be looking to make up for relative inactivity- lest he gets too used to it and decides to take off for the Bahamas for a long-overdue break. Though one doubts he will go to the extent of opening the batting. He will leave the excessively shocking decision-making to makeshift captains like Vettori and Yuvi (who refuses to make decisions altogether). Oh, they’re leaders of their franchises? Of course.
The fortress will finally be breached and Chennai will romp home- making a massive statement to the rest of the teams (consisting of Mumbai and Mumbai). Shane Warne will finally be able to book his tickets back home (now England) in peace- with no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ if they lose this one.
Yes, it’s a win-win situation. Keep him happy and fit and he will be back next year- as ‘mentor’ to a bumbling Royals team that might resemble Siddharth Mallya without his white pants- unless they manage to rope in another Aussie non-captain (looking to fulfil a long cherished dream) from retirement.
Like Ricky Ponting.