Sanju Samson
Sanju Samson of the Rajasthan Royals hits out and is caught by Matthew Short (not in picture) of the Punjab Kings in the IPL match at the Barsapara Stadium in Guwahati, Assam, on April 5, 2023. Captain Samson’s dismissal had a detrimental effect on Rajasthan’s chase as they lost the game by five runs. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

The Rajasthan Royals are an enigma. They have a balanced side, a team for all conditions and crises in IPL 2023. Yet, they haven’t been able to strike the consistency expected of title contenders. A win and a loss are not something they would be proud of, especially when the loss is by a thin margin.

Defeats happen to the best in the fiercely contested IPL, but the manner of the loss matters. More than the narrow defeat to the Punjab Kings, the haphazard approach in the chase doesn’t augur well for Rajasthan.

Runners-up last year, Rajasthan are prone to experimentation. But experiments are a double-edged sword. While some gambles can turn out well, others can go horribly wrong. The Ravichandran Ashwin ploy on Wednesday failed spectacularly. And it did play a role in Rajasthan’s defeat in Guwahati.

Most T20 games are won and lost in the powerplay. Ashwin is a decent batter but certainly not the type who could blaze away in the powerplay. To make matters worse, opener Yashasvi Jaiswal got out early. At the end of six overs, Rajasthan had 57 runs on the board but had also lost three wickets.

That slowed them down, and Devdutt Padikkal’s tepid form didn’t help. With runs reduced to a trickle, skipper Sanju Samson was forced to take more risks than usual, leading to his dismissal.

How Ashwin’s elevation affected Rajasthan’s chase

Ashwin’s elevation was necessitated by Jos Buttler’s finger and injury. Samson later said that Padikkal, who could have opened, was held back to handle the left-handed Punjab bowlers. But that didn’t work out well.

The target of 198 is stiff. Here’s when a captain has to go for the jugular. Samson is a man in form, a batter who has previously opened the innings. He could well have launched Rajasthan’s chase with Jaiswal. For all you know, the result could have been different.

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Later, Padikkal’s inability to find boundaries weighed Rajasthan down. He had struggled against the Sunrisers Hyderabad as well. So the situation necessitated an in-form batsman: Shimron Hetmeyer at No. 5 would have speeded up the scoring, which might have prevented the middle-order collapse.

Rajasthan should also look at the use of the Decision Review System. Two reviews were needlessly wasted on no-ball calls, and when they had a clear chance to reverse a no-ball call towards the end, they had no reviews left. That was in the 19th over, and it may have altered the result. Anyway, it’s a hard lesson learned.

Impact player makes an impact, finally

Samson got one decision right: the impact player. Dhruv Chand Jurel made an impact and brought Rajasthan to the doorstep of victory. We will certainly hear more of this youngster, who kept calm in the nerve-jangling chase.

A loss in two games won’t hurt Rajasthan. After all, these are the early days in Season 16. Rajasthan have the team to make the playoffs. All they have to do is play to potential.

That means avoiding unnecessary gambles and being brave. Samson has to be captain courageous. The rewards will follow.