Royals look for Rahane encore against RCB | india | Hindustan Times
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Royals look for Rahane encore against RCB

It was the tie between the Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore a week ago that gave IPL-5 its first centurion. So, when the two teams clash in their return leg on Monday at Jaipur, there are expectations galore from RR’s Ajinkya Rahane. And, it’s justified. Debjeet Kundu reports. Face off

india Updated: Apr 23, 2012 01:47 IST
Debjeet Kundu
Secret-behind-AB-and-Dilshan-s-fitness-Sanjeev-Verma-HT
Secret-behind-AB-and-Dilshan-s-fitness-Sanjeev-Verma-HT

It was the tie between the Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore a week ago that gave IPL-5 its first centurion. So, when the two teams clash in their return leg on Monday at Jaipur, there are expectations galore from RR’s Ajinkya Rahane. And, it’s justified.

Placed second on the leaderboard, the Royals are suddenly finding the top half getting crowded. As for RCB, a win here will make them stand right next to their rivals on the points table.

Though Rahane has been a part of this unit for sometime now, he wasn’t exactly a star till the century a week ago, which changed it all. Usually, it was Shane Warne — and to a certain extent Shane Watson and Shaun Tait — who stole the limelight.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/4/23_04_pg17d.jpg

Focus on locals
But this year around, the focus has shifted to homegrown talent.

With Rahul Dravid busy marshalling his players, Rahane is the new Royals superstar. Be it television commercials or billboards, the player from Mumbai is everywhere.

“It’s our good fortune that Mumbai Indians didn’t pick him,” said a Rajasthan Cricket Association official. “Warne backed him in the last edition, and now Dravid is reaping the rewards.”

Today, Rahane is in the same league as the Gayles and Pietersens, and rival captains are strategising to contain him. “Ajinkya and Owais (Shah) have been getting runs for us in every match,” said RR all-rounder Stuart Binny.

Binny did not take the logic that the team’s batting was fast becoming too reliant on Rahane. “No, we’re not heavily dependent on anyone in particular,” he said.

Gayle the key
While the Royals might deny their over-dependency on Rahane, the Royal Challengers have always turned to Chris Gayle to fire them in every match.

Though Gayle has been doing a clinical job, skipper Daniel Vettori needs to plug quite a few holes in the team’s armour.

Virat Kohli hasn’t fired in the last few games and Royal Challengers Bangalore bowlers have conceded plenty of runs. To compound their woes, their highest wicket-taker, Muttiah Muralitharan, is sitting out.

“That’s how IPL is,” said Vettori philosophically, adding, “We are having to sacrifice his bowling for some batting.”