POINTS TABLE | FIXTURES
The Steve Smith-led side will have to begin their quest by overcoming Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the Dubai International Stadium in the first game of the double header on Saturday. RCB comfortably beat RR in their previous clash at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Both teams come into this fixture on the back of losses in their previous games.
RR head coach Andrew McDonald and batting coach Amol Muzumdar have a tricky task at hand, to come up with a more stable batting order if they want to turn things around for the franchise.
Right now, the top order is foreign heavy with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler opening the batting and Smith at No. 3, followed by Sanju Samson. Samson at No. 3 paid them rich dividends in their first two games of the season but the wicketkeeper-batsman has not been in his elements since then.
Skipper Smith’s inconsistency is a matter of grave concern as the Australian has registered single-digit scores in five of the last six games. At No. 3, Smith has looked out of sorts, finding it difficult to adapt to the unpredictable UAE pitches. He was much better off as an opener, though his poor form has led to speculation over replacing him altogether with a T20 specialist like David Miller.
The addition of England’s World Cup hero Ben Stokes in the previous two matches too failed to turn their fortunes around.
Royals have won five or more consecutive games on three occasions — twice in 2008 (when they lifted the inaugural trophy) and once in 2015. Pace spearhead Jofra Archer feels it is not impossible to do the same again.
“I think there are wins out there and we just as a team need to go out there and get those wins. We’ve had some good performances this year. Now we just need to get together and do well collectively in the coming games,” Archer told reporters in the pre-match conference.
“We have been in this situation before and have come back from this. So we’re not panicking about this, we know it can be done and I believe in this team to do it.”
RCB’s onward march was stopped by Kings XI Punjab in the last match, with captain Kohli’s vital 48 going in vain. After creating records for the most capped IPL player and being the highest scorer as captain for RCB with 4314 runs, Kohli will be itching to make impact with the results too.
His strategy of elevating Aaron Finch to the top and bringing their talismanic batsman AB de Villiers down to No. 6 backfired and the team management would have learnt their lesson of not tinkering with the set order for future games. The Bengaluru outfit is in a much better position to make the final four, with five wins already in their bag.
With Devdutt Padikkal and Washington Sundar hungry for more, and all-rounder Chris Morris adding the X-factor, RCB are aiming to clinch the elusive title this time.
In all, the fixture promises fireworks with both the sides evenly-matched in terms of talent and pedigree.
Of the nine instances of four or more successive losses in the IPL, five have been recorded by RR as under:
5 – between 17-5-2009 and 18-3-2010
4 – between 4-5-2011 and 15-5-2011
4 – between 21-4-2012 and 1-5-2012
4 – between 23-5-2018 and 31-3-2019
4 – between 30-9-2020 and 9-10-2020
Three times, RR have won five or more consecutive games in the IPL as under:
6 – between 9-5-2008 and 26-5-2008
5 – between 21-4-2008 and 4-5-2008
5 – between 10-4-2015 and 19-4-2015
Runs conceded and wickets lost
Rajasthan: Runs conceded 1451, wickets lost 39, runs per wicket 37.21 (the most by any team in 2020)
Bangalore: Runs conceded 1331, wickets lost 47, runs per wicket 28.32
Biggest wins against each other
RR have won three matches by seven wickets against RCB in Bangalore on April 26, 2008; in Centurion on May 7, 2009; and in Jaipur on April 2, 2019.
Bangalore have won four matches by eight or more wickets against Rajasthan in the IPL – by 10 wickets at Bangalore on March 18, 2010; by nine wickets at Jaipur on May 11, 2015; by 9 wickets at Ahmedabad on April 24, 2015; and by 8 wickets at Abu Dhabi on October 3, 2010.
(Stats by: Rajesh Kumar)