The Rajasthan Royals travel to Centurion from Cape Town with creased foreheads. The team spirit is doing fine, the bowlers and fielders’ enthusiasm is infectious but the batsmen are out of depth. They barely passed 100 against the Kings XI Punjab on Sunday and that was due to the indomitable Shane Warne.
So far, Kings XI have been a decidedly lightweight bowling attack and this ought to set the alarm bells ringing in the Royals’ camp. Twice, they have come a cropper against a 130-ish target total. It was a good opportunity for them to run into form on Sunday but they floundered.
Graeme Smith has been a let down. Only 17 runs from four innings is a terrible data on one of the world’s best. Swapnil Asnodkar, his little partner, is out of depth in alien conditions.
The bouncier pitches of South Africa are undoing his forceful square cuts and pulls. Centurion, if anything, is still quicker and rookie Indians in the team could be found out. Mohammad Kaif is a man sorely missed in this crisis.
The Delhi Daredevils too have been sobered up. Their tornado of openers have barely caused a ripple in two successive matches. But their back-up guys in AB de Villiers and Tillakaratne Dilshan have been absolutely fabulous. Dilshan is in rip-roaring form and looks finally to be fulfilling his promise. Mithun Minhas inspires hopes and the team is now emboldened to try out two spinners in a match. I suspect this is going to be a trend with them, as it would be with most other teams. Spinners have really been the glam-boys of their sides in this IPL II.
The Royals would always be a spectacle for the unique chemistry they whip up on the field. Loyalties aside, they ought to be the most entertaining and popular group of players among viewers. Even opponent is forever wary of them.
The cause was all but lost for them against Kings XI on Sunday at the half way stage and yet nobody dared to write them off. But if they were to lose now, their mystique among opponents would go up in air. Warne, for the first time in this tournament, got a pasting at the hands of Kumar Sangakkara and Irfan Pathan and this would give heart to the rest of the teams.
The Kings XI are slowly but surely making a serious move. They will be very dangerous once their injured fast bowlers are fit.