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Ajinkya Rahane, Ben Stokes misfiring has dealt Rajasthan Royals crippling blow in IPL 2018

For Rajasthan Royals, Steve Smith missing out proved a crippling blow, their situation made worse with Ajinkya Rahane and Ben Stokes not putting their hand up when needed in IPL 2018

cricket Updated: May 17, 2018 10:14 IST
IPL 2018,Ajinkya Rahane,Ben Stokes
Rajasthan Royals captain Ajinkya Rahane, right, and their most expensive player Ben Stokes have been inconsistent in IPL 2018(AP)

As IPL enters its business end and teams sprint around the final bend, it is anybody’s game. Teams that earlier surged ahead of competition have lost momentum; others who gasped for breath initially have got second wind.

This season, only CSK and Sunrisers Hyderabad have been consistent; Delhi Daredevils too, but in a different way. CSK is a settled team led by an astute captain who knows how to win. Sunrisers have solid bowling and a captain who keeps finding new ways to win. The difference between the two captains is that MSD is a legend, permanent member and chairperson of IPL’s club of icons. Kane Williamson is a fresher who would have sat on the bench in Hyderabad had Warner been present.

READ | IPL 2018 play-off scenarios: MI stay alive with win over KXIP 

SMITH BLOW TO RR

It is interesting how the fortunes of teams change, and what causes these changes. DD underperformed again and must find out why they are where they are. Mumbai began poorly, KKR/RCB had their moments. Kings sped off the blocks like Usain Bolt only to pull a hamstring halfway. Royals were excellent one day, exasperating the next.

Sometimes, it is possible to understand the changing fortunes of teams. Captain Ashwin admitted they are not a champion side and initially punched above their weight. For Royals, Steve Smith missing out proved a crippling blow, their situation made worse with Rahane and Stokes not putting their hand up when needed.

READ | IPL 2018: Ben Stokes & my show vs Sunrisers Hyderabad shameful - Jos Buttler

The major gain is the emergence of bright young Indian talent. Batsmen still in an age category to be called juniors have won matches for their teams. This new set of players are skilled, confident and fearless. But don’t miss the irony: this latest batch of under-19s are mentored by Rahul Dravid, who considers the longer format far more important than 20-over cricket.

MIXED RUN FOR INDIAN BATSMEN

Strangely, young players slightly senior are having a mixed season. Nitish Rana, Deepak Hooda, Mandeep Singh and Rahul Tripathy are more down than up. Manan Vohra, Saurabh Tiwary and Manoj Tiwary, all so promising in previous editions, are on the fringes. More surprising is the inability of Karnataka’s experienced batting muscle to make an impact. Manish Pandey, Mayank Aggarwal and Karun Nair (collectively worth several crores) are yet to ‘express’ themselves. But KL Rahul, their Ranji colleague, has had a standout season.

READ | IPL 2018: RCB aim to continue late revival against SRH

The fortunes of senior players have thrown up conflicting trends. Some are pushed aside, unable to survive the rush of a format that disrespects age. Gautam Gambhir stepped down at DD and Yuvraj is no more central to Kings’ plans. Raina, Jadeja and Uthappa are not as forceful as they were. Harbhajan is not an automatic four-over option.

Two players defy this narrative. Ambati Rayudu, an IPL expert, is having his best-ever season. DK at KKR is successfully playing multiple roles -- those of captain, keeper and finisher.

(Amrit Mathur is a senior cricket writer and has been involved with IPL in official capacity)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by author in this article are personal.

First Published: May 17, 2018 09:28 IST