The Kings XI Punjab’s victory against the Mumbai Indians last night means that the Rajasthan Royals now occupy the last place in the IPL 2020 points table. However, the situation is not that grim for RR as a win against the Chennai Super Kings tonight will help them move up to the fifth position.
The 12 previous editions of the IPL reveal that winning 50 percent of the league matches while maintaining a positive NRR (net run rate) is enough for a side to make it through to the playoffs. NRR usually comes in as a tie-breaker, since history suggests that the fourth and fifth-placed teams are most likely to finish level on points.
In that case, the Steve Smith-led side cannot be written off just yet since they need to win 4 of their last 5 matches to finish the league stage on 14 points. And what might work in their favour is the fact that 2 of the current top 4 teams have an NRR on the left-hand side of zero. So if RR register big victories, they can indeed improve their NRR and thus hold an edge in case of a tie in points tally.
Though the 2008 champions would look to win all their 5 remaining games, they would take solace from the fact that 3 of those encounters are against franchises which are presently all on 6 points – the Chennai Super Kings tonight, the Sunrisers Hyderabad on October 22 and the Kings XI Punjab on October 30.
To put things into perspective, a win tonight will move RR to within 2 points of fourth-placed Kolkata Knight Riders, whom they play last on November 1. The toughest encounter right now seems the one against the Mumbai Indians on October 25, but it can very well be a cakewalk if RR manage to build momentum by winning the 2 matches prior to it.
RR’s top order desperately has to fire
The Rajasthan Royals have used 2 different opening combinations in their previous 2 matches, and one shouldn’t be surprised if they go out with another set of openers tonight.
But what looks certain is that Robin Uthappa – who has failed to deliver the goods batting in the middle order – has cemented his customary slot after scoring a 22-ball 41 against RCB on Saturday. Andrew McDonald and Co might be tempted to send him out with Jos Buttler, while Ben Stokes can don the finisher’s role.
Nonetheless, RR would be staring at their power-packed top order to start firing on an urgent basis. While the only 2 half-centuries Sanju Samson has scored this season came in RR’s first 2 matches, captain Steve Smith also looked out of sorts before smashing 57 off 36 balls against RCB.
But their biggest headache has been the form of Englishmen Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes. While Buttler has scored just 192 runs in 8 matches at a measly average of 24, the star all-rounder has managed a meagre 61 runs in 3 matches and failed to take a single wicket.
Agreed, RR’s bowling attack is a weak link as well. But if their top 4 can get them off to a flying start with Ben Stokes and the in-form Rahul Tewatia to make merry at the death, not only will their bowlers have more runs to play with, but they will also be high on confidence going into the subsequent contests.
The train has already started blaring its horns and is preparing to chug out of the station. The Rajasthan Royals will have to take giant strides, and they will have to start tonight against the side they defeated to become the first-ever IPL champions in 2008.
Published 19 Oct 2020, 14:54 IST