Dubai: The contrasting fortunes of the two comeback teams in the Indian Premier League — Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals — is fascinating as the league winds it’s way to the final week before the play-offs.
Two-time champions Chennai had been forced out of their homeground and shifted to Pune after just one game, but that setback did not pull them down. Rajasthan, on the other hand, lost their captain and star player Steve Smith even before the start of the tournament. To add to their misery, their big guns in the team such as Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat, despite the huge money paid to them, haven’t performed up to the expectations.
Chennai, inspired by the legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni, have managed to create an image of being favourites though he knows that his bowling attack has to improve at the death. Rajasthan, thanks to Jos Buttler, skipper Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson, have pulled off six victories and kept their play-off hopes alive.
At a time when Chennai looked like losing its consistency, they defeated table toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday. For Dhoni, it hasn’t been a lone effort as Ambati Rayudu and Shane Watson has been performing consistently with the bat. So appreciative is Dhoni about Rayudu that after the match he remarked: “Even before IPL started I had to make space for Rayudu, because he is somebody I rate very highly. He can play both the fast bowlers and spinners very well.”
Rajasthan too needed consistency to ensure victories and Jos Buttler rose to the team’s demand — albeit late in the day — with five straight half-centuries to equal Virender Sehwag’s record in the league. Rajasthan had paid $653,840 to get him and he has piled up 509 runs from the 12 matches for an average of 56.55.
“Bit of do-or-die situation for us. Found some good form and I’m trying to keep it going. I’m full of confidence so want to keep it going.” said Butler after receiving the Man of the Match award.
Praising Buttler’s contribution, teammate Sanju Samson said: “He (Buttler) is in amazing form. Real players come out when the team needs them. Very lucky to have him.” Samson had also pulled of a stunning catch on Sunday to dismiss Hardik Pandya at a time when his captain Ajinkya Rahane had called for players to stand up as good fielders too.
When Rahane was asked about the secret of his batting, especially at becoming successful as an opener, he said; “It’s a good position to bat (opening) in T20s. I am enjoying it right now. There’s no secret. If you are good at four-day cricket, you can bat at any position.”
Chennai has peaked at the right time to be virtually in the play off, while Rajasthan has woken up late in the day. Rajasthan have 12 points from as many matches and if they win both their remaining games, they stand a chance to make it to the play-offs. A win in the next game against Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday can help them a great deal in its pursuit.