Batting heavy Royals let down by a weak bowling attack
Relying too much on the overseas cricketers didn't help them.
It was a case of so near, yet so far for the Rajasthan Royals again as the team faltered after making one of the brightest starts in IPL history. No one would have predicted the Royals to huff and puff their way to the playoffs and finish fourth on the table after winning their first five matches pretty comfortably.
Their ride throughout the tournament mirrored the exact opposite of what the Mumbai Indians went through. They say momentum is very important in a long tournament such as the IPL, and the Royals found it out yet again after a heartbreaking elimination last year. This year though, there was nothing heartbreaking in it as they were comfortably sent packing by the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the eliminator.
So what went wrong this time? How did a team after winning their first five games struggle to make it to the playoffs? The primary reason was their death bowling which proved to be a huge concern for most part of the tournament. Despite making the cut in the end, their economy at the death was the worst among all teams this year.
Without a doubt, Ajinkya Rahane! The man looked class apart right from the beginning. This season, he even managed to improve his strike rate from the previous editions which helped his side get some brisk starts. Also, winning the first four matches without their biggest match-winner Shane Watson was a huge plus for the side.
Their opening combination clicked at times and after Watson’s poor form last year where he was made to bat at number 5, the Royals think tank did the right thing by having him open the innings this time around. This season, he averaged 43 at a strike rate of 135 (but he could have done even better given his past record for RR).
Their batting order looked very flexible throughout the tournament and also looked very long. At times, they had someone like Stuart Binny batting at number 8 and Chris Morris at 9.
Almost every season, they unearth a local talent out of nowhere and provide him a great platform, and this time it was Deepak Hooda. The youngster struck the ball cleanly and even helped Royals chase down a tough total against the Delhi Daredevils, but as the league progressed he started fading away.
The purchase of Chris Morris proved to be an excellent choice for the Jaipur based franchise as the South African allrounder looked like the only reliable bowler in the lineup. He also proved to be an excellent pinch hitter at the death. Morris adapted with the ball as he generated good pace and bounce on wickets which had a tinge of grass and on slowish wickets he took the pace off the ball regularly giving nothing away easily.
He has learnt the art of bowling in this format in the subcontinent and he could prove to be a valuable asset in the coming seasons.
Like mentioned earlier, no other team this season leaked runs at the death as much as the Royals did. The ever reliable James Faulkner was the biggest let down as he has been viewed upon as one of the best in the business in this format. His accurate yorkers and slower deliveries were constantly missing and his economy was 9.46 which is shocking to say the least. Faulkner ‘the finisher’ was missing too as he failed to help his team cross the line on a few occasions where the stage was perfectly set for him.
The primary reason could be exhaustion as he has been playing a lot of cricket and came in to the tournament immediately on the back of a World Cup win. The Royals probably should have rested Steven Smith (who was also not at his self) and Faulkner at the start just like what RCB did with Starc.
Pravin Tambe couldn’t repeat his magic but you can’t rely on a 43-year-old spinner who hasn’t even played decent amount of first-class Cricket. The Royals would also look at Stuart Binny’s no show! He was one of their architects during their successful run in 2013, but this time he couldn’t deliver!
What to expect in 2016?
The time might have finally come for the Royals to break their norm and go full throttle during the auctions! Expect them to go for a couple of world class bowlers and also may be a few backup overseas cricketers. Right now they rely too much on the Australian players and they wouldn’t want a repeat of what happened this season.
Having a couple of more world class players in the squad certainly helps. You can’t expect the same set of players to put their hands up literally every game and having more willing hands would reduce the burden on the star names. In case of a last minute injury you don’t have to panic when you have capable replacements in the side. RR might not have made it to the playoffs had Rahane or Morris been injured during some stage of the tournament, so this certainly is a gamble that they shouldn’t be taking in the future.
Also, Steven Smith must continue leading the side full-time and that would allow Watson to play freely. Not only do the Royals need an in-form Watto with the bat, but he is very crucial with the ball too. Sanju Samson’s talent shouldn’t get wasted and hence he should come out regularly at number 3 or 4. After he made a majestic 76 against the Mumbai Indians almost helping the Royals cross the line, surprisingly he batted very low down the order in the next few games.
If they manage to address these issues, they will have the quality to go all the way next season!