IPL 2013: Chennai look to breach Rajasthan fortress

Despite playing at home, Rajasthan Royals will face a stern test against the Chennai Super Kings © IANS

By Bhavesh Bhimani
It will be an interesting battle at the Sawai Mansingh stadium in Jaipur on Monday between the table toppers Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals.  Both sides are in good form at the moment and it would be imprudent to say that either of them holds the edge over the other.
However, for Chennai, who are quite safely placed with 20 points in their kitty, the real test would be to see if they can breach the Rajasthan fortress — the Royals have been unbeatable at home this season. However if there was one team who could break this winning streak, it has to be Chennai who are looking more dangerous with each passing game.
Both teams are coming off thumping wins in their last outings against Kings XI Punjab and Sunrisers Hyderabad respectively, so their confidence will be running high. Rajasthan, who are neatly placed with 18 points, would look to consolidate on that and ascertain their spot in the playoffs by beating Chennai.
However despite the fact that Rajasthan would be playing at home, getting over Chennai would be pretty tough as they are looking like a nicely gelled unit. The good thing for Rajasthan is that they are finally exuding a settled look with their team composition. They do not have the superstars in their team, but what they do have is an apt leader in Rahul Dravid who has been leading by example. At the same time they also have the right balance of foreign players like Shane Watson, James Faulkner and Brad Hodge, who ably support their domestic talents. Watson is blasting runs at the top of the order and is finding efficient support in Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane, who seems to have finally found his touch which was lacking this season.
What Rajasthan also do so well regularly is promote hitherto unknown local talents. In 18-year-old Sanju Samson, they have found an efficient wicketkeeper-batsman whose sparkling strokeplay in the limited opportunities he has got has impressed one and all. Stuart Binny, with his power hitting, too is chipping in with vital contributions at the fag end of the innings and he is also a handy medium-pace bowling option that the team has. Rajasthan’s bowling, which might not have big names, does get the job done more often than not. James Faulkner, along with Siddharth Trivedi, Watson and Ajit Chandila, form a more than decent bowling line up.
Chennai on the other hand have just grinded Hyderabad to pulp in their last outing and are clearly the team to beat in the tournament. What is interesting to note is that before that game, Hyderabad too were on an unbeaten winning spree at their home ground, only for Chennai to halt their winning march. The men in yellow would be looking to repeat the feat here again at Jaipur by breaching fortress Rajasthan. They have proved that their embarrassing 60-run loss to Mumbai last Sunday was just an aberration and seem to have gotten their act together with aplomb.
Their batting line-up is easily the best in the tournament with the likes of Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina continuing their rich vein of form. The others like captain MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja and Badrinath keep making vital contributions. Murali Vijay too seems to have regained his lost flair in the last match when he hit Ishant Sharma for three consecutive sublime sixes.  One can expect him to do even better now.
The Chennai bowling still remains a worry though and the likes of Chris Morris and Dwayne Bravo keep giving the captain headaches by being inconsistent and going for plentiful in the death overs. Twenty-four-year old medium-pacer Mohit Sharma, however, has been quite a revelation for them with his steady line and length and by taking regular big wickets. Ravichandran Ashwin has been good, though not overtly impressive. Bravo, despite going for many runs, is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament currently and his team will hope that he keeps providing them with important breakthroughs. The others like Jadeja are handy chip in bowlers.
Since Chennai are almost through to the playoffs, it is time perhaps that they can do with some new faces and try them out to see if they are worth playing in the next stage. Aussie quick Ben Hilfenhaus should be given a look in as he might just be the fast bowler that Chennai requires to beef up their line-up.
The pitch at Jaipur is one of the best in tournament offering true pace and bounce and thus giving something both to the batters and the bowlers. The true bounce though would be for the liking of the Chennai batsmen and they should relish playing on this lightning fast outfield, and hence, Rajasthan have to be on their toes.
By all accounts it looks like we have a humdinger on our hands and both teams would not be willing to give an inch to the other. The outcome of the game might not have an overdue impact on the points table, but one can be certain that both the teams would like to consolidate their position further as the top contenders for the title crown.

(Bhavesh Bhimani is a freelance journalist who got hooked on to cricket after watching the 1996 World Cup. His Twitter ID is https://twitter.com/bhaveshthetiger)