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Rajasthan Royals v Gujarat Titans
Thursday April 14, 15:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Buttler, Hetmyer and Chahal impress
Four games, three wins.
An excellent start so far for one of the IPL’s big strugglers but it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
They recruited perhaps better than anyone else in the Mega Auction and look well-stocked in every area.
Particularly with their spin bowling, where Yuzvendra Chahal is the top bowler of the tournament with 11 and often ably assisted by the great Ravi Ashwin.
One of the big surprises (in a good sense) has been Shimron Hetmyer. He seldom looks fit and with those teeth braces looks like a goofy teenager rather than a top class cricketer, but on is day, he’s the real deal.
He’s scored 32, 35, 42 and 59, those last two not outs. But better than his consistency, is his strike rate of 178, which is just superb.
No changes are expected for this one. Why would they, given how they’re going?
Rajasthan Royals’ Likely XI
Buttler, Padikkal, Samson, Hetmyer, Van der Dussen, Parag, Ashwin, Saini, Boult, Krishna, Chahal.
The enigma that is Gujarat
When teams recruit after a big auction the tendency is to focus too much on the batsmen. We’ve seen the likes of RCB being guilty of that in the past, and paying the price.
What you rarely see is what Gujarat have done: spending too much on bowlers and perhaps not enough on batsmen.
Any one of Rashid Khan, Mohammed Shami or Rashid Khan would get into any other IPL side so it’s huge fillip to have all three of them.
But where are their match-wining batsmen? Shubman Gill, aside.
Matthew Wade won’t be coming to terms with Indian pitches anytime soon whereas Rahul Tewatia is an excellent finisher but shouldn’t bat higher than seven and Hardik Pandya seems a bit confused as to what his role is in his own team.
He’s an explosive batsman rather than an accumulator but his innings on Monday was very much typical of the latter type of player.
But that’s because he clearly doesn’t trust those around him and felt he had to be there at the end rather than take risks.
David Miller looks the most vulnerable of he overseas player. One move would be to open with R Gurbaz and play Wade somewhere in the middle-order, like he does for Australia.
Still, they’re three from four which isn’t bad at all.
Gujarat’s Likely XI
Gurbaz, Gill, Sudharsan, Pandya, Wade, Manohar, Tewatia, Khan, Shami, Nalkande, Ferguson.
CSK (of all teams) made a mockery of first innings predictions at the DY Patil Stadium when they set RCB 216 to win thanks to some brutal hitting from Robin Uthappa and Shivam Dube.
But that was more a case of poor RCB bowling, particularly at the death, along with some truly brilliant CSK hitting, particularly from those two.
Curiously it seems to be the ground with the least dew around in the second half of the match. When SRH beat Gujarat on Monday, there didn’t seem to be any at all.
So it will be fascinating to see whether the skipper winning the toss looks at CSK’s performance batting first and has first digs, or goes with the trend of wanting to chase.
Real value about the Royals
I was really surprised to see Rajasthan at 1.910/11. They’ve been the best side in the tournament so far, look beautifully balanced and are fresh from a good win over the fast-starting Lucknow.
They’re up against a Gujarat team who were incredibly fortunate to beat Punjab thanks to two sixes from the final two balls from the bat of Tewatia last week. That’s why they made it three from three at that stage.
They were all at sea in that loss to SRH on Monday and until they make some changes, are always going to be vulnerable in the batting department.
With less of a toss bias here than at other grounds, backing Rajasthan pre-toss at what are very decent odds, isn’t fraught with danger.
Hetmyer in the form of his life
Given his form, you can make a case for Hetmyer at odds of 11/2.
He’s clearly in excellent touch and that sky high strike rate means that even if he doesn’t face that many deliveries, he should face enough to be able to top score, which is exactly what happened on Sunday. His 59, the highest score, came off just 36 balls.
Of course, he’ll have to beat some pretty good players such as Orange Cap holder Jos Buttler (9/4) and Devitt Padikkal (16/5) but then again, he’s far bigger prices than them.
Pandya, the bowler
We’ve talked about Pandya the batsman, but what about Pandya the bowler?
Having hardly (or should that be Hardit?) bowled at all for the past year and a half due to injury concerns, he’s now bowled his full quota of overs in every match so far this season.
That’s because the Titans tend to only use five bowlers (maximum six), meaning that all five generally have to bowl four. It’s also because as skipper, he feels he needs to step up to the plate as an all-rounder rather than just bowling here and there.
Crucially he’s chosen to bowl at the start and around the 15th or 16th over, both times when wickets tend to fall.
Yes, he’s up against that brilliant trio of bowlers but he was good enough for a tie on Monday when he took a wicket, one of only two to fall in the whole of SRH’s innings.
It could happen again.