Shane Warne led his less-fancied Rajasthan Royals to glory in the inaugural Indian Premier League © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

In the year 2008, Shane Warne led his less-fancied Rajasthan Royals to glory in the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL). On paper, the Rajasthan Royals looked the weakest side, but they surprised one and all by dominating the tournament right through. It was Warne’s leadership and inspiration that got the best out of international players such as Shane Watson and Sohail Tanvir and the little-known domestic players such as Swapnil Asnodkar, Ravindra Jadeja, etc.

 

Fast forward to 2011, Shane Warne leaves a team that has not achieved much after the summer of 2008, failing to reach the semi-finals in the two editions that followed. This year they have a chance to make it to the knock-outs only if they manage to win their remaining games. However, this doesn’t guarantee qualification as other results and Lady Luck would have to favor them.

 

The biggest problem with the Rajasthan Royals is their net run-rate. Currently in fifth place, they have a net run-rate of -0.587. This indicates that whenever they have lost games the margin has been huge which would spoil all the good work put in victorious causes. The six games they lost this season were won comprehensively by the other team as Rajasthan were not able to put up a good fight. Their margins of defeat this season have been: nine wickets against Kolkata, eight wickets against Kolkata, 48 runs against Punjab, eight wickets against Chennai, 63 runs against Chennai and nine wickets against Bangalore.

 

Unlike 2008, the Royals have not had any stellar performers this season. In the first season their batsmen Watson, Asnodkar, Yusuf Pathan and Graeme Smith scored over 300 runs each which highlighted their consistency throughout the tournament. Watson, Smith and Pathan were consistently in the top ten as the tournament progressed. Compare it to the current season, approaching the business-end of the tournament; none of their batsmen is in the top ten run scorers. Rahul Dravid leads the list for the Royals with 299 runs at an average of 29.90 (13th overall); Johan Botha comes second with 237 runs at 46.00 (26th overall)[1].

 

When you look at their bowling, only Warne is in the list of the top ten wicket takers of the tournament, occupying the tenth spot with 12 wickets. Siddharth Trivedi comes second for the Royals with 10 wickets and occupies the 18th spot overall. In the first season, three out of the top four wicket takers were from the Royals. Sohail Tanvir led the list with 22 wickets, bagging the purple cap, followed by Warne with 19. Watson, their talisman of the first season, occupied the fourth spot with 17 scalps.

 

As mentioned by a few commentators, the Rajasthan Royals batting line-up this season looks good for a 130-140 score. Their highest score this season has been only 159 which was chased down with ease by the Kolkata Knight Riders. Their scores batting first have been 159, 147, 81 and 146; all coming in losing causes. In the two other games they lost; they have conceded over 190 and lost it by over 40 runs. Their highest successful run-chase was 152 against Delhi very early into the season. Thus, the batting has not clicked very consistently and nobody has been able to push the tempo and accelerate when required.

 

Watson has not performed as well as he had in 2008. In fact he has been nowhere close to his best as he has averaged just 24.55 with the bat and picked up just three scalps. Ross Taylor, their other international star has scored just 181 runs in 11 innings at an average of 36.20. An average of 36 is not bad in T20s, but with just 181 runs in 11 innings shows that he has been wasted down the order. On many an occasion Taylor has come in to bat with the need for urgent acceleration. In the process he ended up losing his wicket.

 

That is puzzling is that Johan Botha has batted ahead of Taylor in most games. Botha was tried at No 7 by South Africa on a few occasions but did not make much of an impact. He may have been a success initially at No 3 for Rajasthan, but one must remember that he is not a specialist batsman and to expect consistency from him is asking too much.

 

The spinners such as Warne, Ashok Menaria and Botha have bowled well this season. However, their fast bowling has not supported the good work put in by the spinners. Shaun Tait, the one express bowler they have, played only three games this season. The other fast bowlers such as Siddharth Trivedi and Amit Singh have been expensive and haven’t been able to pick up wickets consistently. Thus, unlike the first season their fast bowling has failed to produce the goods.

 

Rajasthan may still make it to the knock-outs if luck is on their side after they manage to win their remaining games. However, they have to ask themselves a few questions at the end of the season. Warne is set to retire and they need to find a suitable successor to take the reins of captaincy. Secondly, they should buy some more impact players in the next auction so that they are not over-dependant on Watson and Taylor.

 

The Royals showed us in the first season what inspiration can do. However, their current run shows that inspiration is not enough every time, you need the right personnel as well.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)