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By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Will the Rajasthan Royals break their jinx away from home? They haven’t won a game on the road since their opening encounter of the Indian Premier League (IPL), 2013 against the Delhi Daredevils. Up against them are the Kings XI Punjab — a side that is buoyed by the breath-taking innings by David Miller. It is a clash between two familiar units, which bank on the perfect formula rather than the big names.
In the lead-up to the game, a lot of the talk would be understandably about Miller. The world has taken notice of his match-winning abilities and his stature has grown tremendously after that magnificent innings. He has been a crucial component of their middle-order and is the anchor in the side. Earlier, the Punjab batting used to revolve around David Hussey, but the onus has now shifted on the young South African.
Punjab have promised a lot during the two previous seasons, but failed to make the cut. The task isn’t going to be easy this time as they are sixth in the points table and have to win most of their remaining games to have a chance. However, Miller’s innings showed them that the impossible can unfold on the field of play. Who would have given them a chance of chasing down 190 when they were 68 for four at the half-way mark? That is the true value of his knock. It would instil belief in the ranks that they can bounce back from any situation.
Rajasthan travel to Mohali with a fantastic run at home behind them. There is a sense of stability in their ranks and it is time they clinically seal their qualification to the next round. Like Punjab, they have stuttered at crucial junctures and missed out in previous editions. However, the team looks very confident under Rahul Dravid this season and back their strategies to come good. They seem to be the factory of domestic talent as we see new faces coming to the fore every year. A 41-year old Pravin Tambe made his debut during their last encounter — a story that should inspire many cricketers waiting for a shot at a higher level.
Dravid has been magnificent with the bat and has exhibited a previously unknown side to his batting. He is enjoying his game and is ready to take risks — more than he ever did during his glorious international career. Interestingly, there have been contrasting knocks from his blade this season. In some contests, he has been absolutely solid and has held the innings together with the other batsmen being the aggressors. However, he has also been aggressive and dominating in a few outings.
The good thing for Rajasthan is that both Dravid and Rahane have found form at the same time. The openers being in good touch is a huge boost in any format and Rajasthan would hope that they carry it forward. It is that stability at the top which is the key for Rajasthan. Shane Watson, Brad Hodge and company can come in later and build on that solid platform.
In a nutshell, there are contrasting themes to this contest. On the one hand you have the power and belligerence of Miller, and on the other you have stability exemplified by Dravid.
Things surely are heating up in IPL 2013.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/nishad_44
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