It's been a maddening roller-coaster ride for the Rajasthan Royals. They are fresh from three wins on the trot after three successive losses and if they prevail on Sunday, and in the game against the Delhi Daredevils on the 31st — both away games — Shane Warne's men will have five wins under their belt with a semifinal spot beckoning.
Who would have seen this coming? Consider this: Graeme Smith and Dimitri Mascarenhas missing, no sign of Morne Morkel, Johan Botha or Shane Watson yet the team is sitting pretty at third spot in this IPL.
They haven’t played a single home game in Jaipur this year and only a few days ago, were dismissed for an abysmal 92.
Yet, the spirit of the team is coming through in unmistakable terms. The clash against the Deccan Chargers on Friday had many themes to it. Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne aren’t exactly backslapping buddies. Herschelle Gibbs and Andrew Symonds had reasons to be pumped up against a known needler. Chaminda Vaas, the head of bowlers’ pack, was up against an average batting side. Yet, Deccan were harried into submission.
Warne’s bowling had as much a role to play as his captaincy. He began with an unknown bowler against Gilchrist and got him too in the first over. His bowling — 15 runs in 4 overs — was capped by a beauty of a delivery to Gibbs. The boys in the field got their run-outs and Shaun Tait was magnificent in the middle overs.
All this ensured that the Royals weren't chasing a mountain in the second innings. Warne has understood that bowling — and work in the field — would be the key to his side's campaign. Between Tait and himself, he has two bowlers difficult to get away. The remaining overs are shared by a lot of trundlers as Warne shuffles his cards. His uncanny insight in sizing up a situation and acting accordingly is allowing the Royals to escape a lot of skiddy spots.
Warne would be sorely required by his team against the Chennai Super Kings on Sunday. It has proven men like Matthew Hayden and Mahendra Singh Dhoni besides the spearhead of bowlers, Muttiah Muralitharan.
His boys again need to punch much above their weight. But then, like their captain, they too love an occasion. For, when the going gets tough, it's Warne who gets going. Especially when there is a Pathan who can blaze away.