IPL 2013: Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians gear up for a battle of pace

Kevon Cooper may lack in pace, but is a genuine wicket-taker and can trouble the batsmen with his nagging deliveries © PTI

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

The lively track at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur has good bite and assistance for the fast bowlers. Rajasthan Royals have so far played two home games where their pacers have played pivotal roles in compelling victories. The pacers have their work cut out against Mumbai Indians batting line-up.

Dishant Yagnik, the Rajasthan wicket-keeper made it clear by saying that Rajasthan would back their seamers to do the job against Mumbai. The green tinge on the surface has kept the seam bowlers interested. So the four pronged pace attack: Shanthkumaran Sreesanth, Siddharth Trivedi, James Faulkner and Kevon Cooper, who have formed a fantastic line-up and have excelled as a unit, will be eager to exploit the conditions on Wednesday night.

Shaun Tait has played one game;In Faulkner, Rajasthan have unearthed an all-rounder whose abilities lends more balance to the side. Each bowler adds a diverse dimension to the attack.

Sreesanth relies on swing. There is something classical about his release and the seam position. His spell in the previous game against Kings XI Punjab rattled the top order and set the tone for the other bowlers. However, he can range from sublime to ridiculous.

Trivedi banks on his wicket-to-wicket line. Trivedi is more of a work-horse and has been an untiring servant for Rajasthan since their first season. He sticks to his basics and tries to hit the right areas.

Faulkner relies on his line and length. Faulkner mixes it up well and his back-of-the-hand slower ball can be very deceptive.

Cooper has been a reliable death bowler. Cooper may lack in pace, but is a genuine wicket-taker and can trouble the batsmen with his nagging deliveries.

This dynamism was something Rajasthan lacked in previous seasons. Rajasthan, in a way, is spoiled for choices- which is a pleasant headache for the management.

The question is: How would this attack put a stranglehold against a line-up full of free-flowing stroke-makers? Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar are the masters and the prized scalps at the top. Ponting may not be scoring runs, but adds tremendous value to the side with his thoughtful captaincy and fantastic fielding. Tendulkar has found his touch and would be eager to build on that.

Rajasthan’s bowlers would face their real test against the flamboyant middle-order. Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma are timing the ball well and scoring runs.. Ambati Rayudu and Kieron Pollard back them up with some thunderous hitting. It would be interesting to see how Rajasthan counter the explosive middle order of Mumbai.

Mumbai must also consider fortifying their pace bowling department. Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Johnson are the two main fast-bowlers in the side with Rishi Dhawan as the third seamer. In the last few games, Mumbai have opted for two specialist spinners in Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha.

Keeping the nature of the Jaipur pitch in perspective, Mumbai might bring in a Munaf Patel in place of a spinner. Munaf may not be express, but makes up for it with discipline and subtle movements off the seam. On the sporting wicket, he could make an impact as his bowling is ideally suited for it. However, Johnson would be the one to watch out for as he has good pace and movement to exploit the conditions. In many ways, he would feel at home at Jaipur if there is a green tinge to the wicket.

The IPL 2013 hasn’t seen too many big totals and surfaces like the one at Jaipur gives the bowlers the centre-stage. It is encouraging to see the often neglected department in modern cricket getting its share of an advantage. The Rajasthan-Mumbai contest should be an exhibition of fast-bowling and the batsmen are in for a stern test.

It isn’t about scoring runs alone.  Wickets might be the order of the day.

(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)