On Thursday, the local players of Rajasthan Royals were at the Siddhivinayak Temple. At the moment, they are solidly placed in the Indian Premier League, but they have their reasons to invoke the Gods.
Somehow, visiting the city has been a torturous experience for the side. Last season, they lost from an impregnable position against Mumbai Indians to miss out on a playoff berth, failing to defend 189 in 14.4 overs.
The season before, after the game against MI at the Wankhede, three of their players were detained for alleged spot-fixing.
This time, the stakes are even higher as the city is their base for the final leg of the IPL. After the away game against MI at the Wankhede on Friday, the Royals will host three matches at the Brabourne Stadium from May 3-16. Depending on the draw, there is a Qualifier I here as well.
Shane Watson’s side starts the home stretch in a strong position and is well placed to take one of the four play-off spots. Second in the points tally with five wins from nine games, they will have to falter to lose the momentum their campaign has gathered.The aura has been built around how the team manages to pick fringe players and sees them grow into superstars like Steve Smith and Ajinkya Rahane. Smith was known for his acrobatic fielding and a trier as a batsman and part-time spinner when the Royals got him in the auction ahead of the 2014 season.
In the short period everyone has seen him transform into the hottest commodity in international cricket. Same is the case with Rahane. He was not even a regular member of the XI when the Royals bid for him in 2011.
Since then, Rahane has been in roaring form while Smith has played a part with a couple of match-winning contributions.
Mumbai Indians players L Malinga and Lendl Simmons during a practice session in Mumbai. (PTI Photo)
The MI bowlers will need no reminder that the two will be the prized wickets on Friday.
In the first-leg game a fortnight ago, it was Rahane (46) and Smith (79 not out) who made a mockery of MI’s total of 164, guiding their team home by seven wickets.
The home team will be in a better frame of mind after pulling off a good win in the last game here against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Also, reinforcements have arrived with seasoned Australian bowler Ben Hilfenhaus available for the game.
It seems things have started to go a bit wrong for the Royals with their last two games being washed off. Hence, the need for them to be careful.