If the IPL is a circus, then the Rajasthan Royals are the jokers: sometimes you laugh at their ineptitude, but the next moment they silence you by pulling off something extraordinary. The Chennai Super Kings will be hoping the joke is not at their expense when they meet the Royals here on Saturday in yet another early game.
The Royals lost badly to the Delhi Daredevils in their previous match. The hosts, on the other hand, think they have turned a corner with the win against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Wednesday. That win, which broke a four-match losing streak, followed a pep talk delivered by coach Stephen Fleming.
“He told us that with so much talent around in the dressing room, we really should be winning more,” the Super Kings’ left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati said. “We were pumped after the talk,” said Wednesday’s Man of the Match Murali Vijay.
Eight matches into IPL III, the Super Kings have won only thrice. The Royals, despite losing foreign recruits, Graeme Smith and Dimitri Mascarenhas to injuries, have won a game more — all in one go after losing the first three.
That bull-run included a 17-run defeat of the Super Kings in Ahmedabad where wicketkeeper and top-order batsman Naman Ojha hit a brilliant 80, his highest score in the IPL.
The Royals depend heavily on the likes of captain-cum-coach Shane Warne, Yusuf Pathan and Shaun Tait. But the contribution of Ojha, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Faiz Fazal and Sumit Narwal is another reason why they continue to punch way above their weight.
And then there are the inspired foreign recruitments. Warne’s Hampshire mate Michael Lumb has done well at the top of the order and won a place in the England squad for the ICC World T20, while Australian all-rounder Adam Voges has been a more-than-handy replacement for Mascarenhas.
The Super Kings are boosted by the arrival of Mike Hussey and new recruit Doug Bollinger. The two flew in on Thursday night after playing for Australia in the Test series in New Zealand.
It remains to be seen if they are blooded immediately, though the Super Kings need to add teeth to their pace attack and Bollinger may be their man.
Whoever wins here will strengthen their chances of making it to the last four.