IPL 2023: Rajasthan Royals (RR) seem to lose the plot while chasing; experimentation with batting order proving fatal. RR lost against PBKS while chasing.
Nowadays in modern limited overs cricket, be it the ODIs or the shortest format of the game T20s, captains are preferring to chase more often if they win the coin toss. It is deemed that the players now are well adept to chasing any kind of totals that are in their way and fielding first does seem a norm in the recent years.
But there are sides that still thrive on the age-old cricketing concept of batting first, smash truckload of runs and put maximum pressure on the teams chasing. One such team is the Rajasthan Royals.
Royals have a better record batting first than chasing
The runners-up from the IPL 2022 edition are one of the sides that have a better winning percentage while batting first. They seem comfortable putting a total on the board and then defend in the second innings. Since the 2021 edition of the IPL till their last fixture against the Punjab Kings on the April 6, the Rajasthan Royals have batted first in 21 of the 33 games they have played and won 11 of those games while in the 12 games chasing they won only 5 games. Nine of those successful run chases came in the last two editions as the Royals had a disappointing 2021 season where they could win only 5 games overall.
However, the last season proved to be great one for the inaugural IPL champs as they reached the final for the first time since 2008. One of the reasons why they could this was because of their winning percentage while batting first. Winning 8 out 13 games batting first with a percentage of 61 is simply outstanding especially in an age where teams prefer chasing.
The trend of Royals winning the game batting first continued even in the 2023 edition when they took on Sunrisers Hyderabad in their opening contest. RR mashed 203/5 with their top-3 going all guns blazing with each of Sanju Samson, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Jos Buttler scoring half-centuries. They eventually won by 72 runs.
Are Rajasthan Royals losing their plot when chasing?
The above stats are enough to show RR’s prowess while setting a target. They have attacking batters who can give a long handle and score runs, enabling them to put huge totals on the board. However, while chasing, it does seem the Royals like to experiment quite a bit and it puts them in a difficult predicament.
The case in point being their last fixture against the Punjab Kings where they lost by a margin of just 5 runs while chasing a huge total of 198. While this may seem a close loss for them, but if they had been better, it would have continued their dominant run in the IPL under Sanju Samson.
What did they do wrong?
In pursuit of this huge total on a pitch highly suited for batters at the Barsapara Stadium in Guwahati, RR management decided to send Ravichandran Ashwin as the opening partner of Yashasvi Jaiswal. The bowling all-rounder didn’t last long and the in-form Jaiswal also perished early in the piece. This dented the Royals’ chase early on and this move of changing the opening pair proved to be a mistake.
Buttler is among the best, if not the best T20 opener currently, and only in RR’s first game he scored a scintillating 22-ball 54 which earned him the player of the match award. So, it was not wise of RR to send Ashwin ahead of Buttler, especially in a big run chase such as this.
One reason for keeping Jos Buttler at No.3 was perhaps he injured his finger while taking a catch in the last over of their fielding display, and had to rush off inside the dressing room to get some treatment. This is understandable that Buttler couldn’t be ready to come as an opener but why Ashwin?
Curious case of Devdutt Padikkal
Devdutt Padikkal is a natural opener who is part of the playing XI and he could have been the ideal candidate to have been the opening partner for Jaiswal if Buttler’s finger injury kept him away from opening. Padikkal, the left-handed batter, doesn’t seem the right fit in the middle order coming at No.4 or 5. His innings was full of struggle and his knock of 26-ball 21 took away the momentum built by the elegant Sanju Samson at the other end.
Padikkal found success as an opener in the IPL when he was with the RCB, and in that position he made 1015 runs in 36 innings including a century at an average of 129. Since he moved to RR and took up the middle order slot, the left-hander’s returns have fallen and in the 10 innings at No.4 & 5, he made only 224 runs. RR management should give him a clarity on what his role is.
Hetmyer should be batting up the order for the Royals
Next up was the promotion of Riyan Parag ahead of an experienced overseas star Shimron Hetmyer. While both played well coming down the order, it wasn’t enough for them to take RR over the line. One gets a feel that Hetmyer should be batting ahead and the No.5 or 6 is too low for a talent like him. He averages 53.67 at a strike rate of over 153 in the 6 innings he has played at No.4. Though his returns at this lower slot are also great, but his impact on RR batting will be higher if he moves up the order, possibly in place of Padikkal.
If the Royals get the things in place in their upcoming game against Delhi Capitals in Guwahati, then they would be a hard team to beat especially with this kind of a line-up. The only thing that has been a roadblock for them is their constant experimentations which breaks the rhythm and sometimes proves to be a recipe for disaster.