Rajasthan Royals began the IPL season 5 as underdogs but astonished all with their fighting attitude, staying in the contention for a spot in the play offs till the very end. With the test over, its time to put the report card on display. Here is a closer look at the performances of the Royals this season along with my two cent on it:
One of the success stories of IPL-5, this Royal batsman heads the list of best value for money players in the 5th edition of the money spinning league. He finished 4th in the chart of highest run getters of IPL-5, amassing 560 runs at an impressive average of 40.00 and imposing strike rate of 129.33. A solid batsman, he was denied adequate opportunity in the previous four editions. So when in this season his captain reposed trust on him, the youngster came out with flying colours. He was also Rajasthan Royals highest run getter in the season. Along with his captain and idol, he yielded the most productive opening partnerships of IPL-5.
He announced his arrival in IPL-5 with a match winning 98 off 66 deliveries against the Kings 11 Punjab, studded with an array of cricketing strokes. He seemed to have at his disposal right stroke for almost every delivery. He also notched up a blistering century, first of IPL-5, against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. On his way to ton he slammed S Arvind for six consecutive fours in an over. He hammered
12 fours and 5 sixes in his knock of 103 off 60 balls. If his blazing century proved that the 98 against the Kings 11 was not a single flash in the pan, his knocks of 40(31) against the Mumbai Indians, 44(31) against the Deccan Chargers, 84(63) against the Delhi Daredevils at Kotla, 42(32) against the same opponent at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium and 61(47) against the Pune Warriors reiterated his worth in the Royals batting line up. In the match against the Mumbai Indians he forged a useful 82 run partnership for the third wicket with Owais Shah, against the Deccan Chargers, chasing 197 for a win he ensured that the momentum did not slip out of Rajasthan Royals hands even after Captain Dravids blitzkrieg knock came to an end. He fought hard against the Daredevils at Kotla, smacked a six off the 4th ball of the last over to take back the advantage but in desperation missed the last ball, resulting in a heart breaking one run defeat. Against the Daredevils at the SMS stadium he together with Dravid stitched a quick-fire 71 run opening partnership before falling to a reverse swat. He also fired in the must win game against the Pune Warriors in Jaipur.
If his batting has drawn praise from all the quarters, his fielding has been equally impressive. He has contributed to the teams cause with not just his willow but also his safe pair of hands and intense dives. His excellent catch causing the dismissal of Raina, brought the Royals back in their game against the CSK at Chepauk. He also sent back Raina and Dhoni with his brilliant catches in the match played at the SMS stadium to keep the Royals hopes afloat in the game. But the most unforgettable display of his fielding genius came in the match against the Pune Warriors where he showed exemplary presence of mind to support Johan Botha in completing one of the most spectacular catches of IPL-5.
With all his brilliance, Rahane also holds the dubious distinction of getting the maximum number of ducks (2) among the Royal batsmen, one of which followed his knock of 98. In stark contrast to his 3 fifties and a hundred stand his 9 outings where he couldnt manage even a 20+ score. However, it would be harsh to term him as inconsistent. With his orthodox batting, this rookie has given the batting heavy weights a run for their money.
In the first half of the season, Shah steered the Royals to thumping wins with his sensational batting, however in the second half he suffered a dramatic dip in form. He piled up 268 runs in the first 7 matches at an astounding average of 53.6 and a brutalizing strike rate of 154.02. In the remaining 6 matches that he played, he could manage only 72 runs at an average of 18 and an unconvincing strike rate of 87.80.
In the matches against the Kings 11 Punjab (14* off 8) and Kolkata Knight Riders (23* off 11) at the home ground, he stepped on the gas in the death overs to propel the hosts to commanding totals. Against the Mumbai Indians, he was at his annihilating best, slamming 76 off 42, studded with 5 fours and as many sixes. He came out to bat when the scoreboard read 7/2 with Munaf on a hattrick.
He got together with Rahane for an 82 run third wicket stand and brought the Royals closer to the target before perishing to a Malinga Yorker. Against the Royals Challengers Bangalore, he scored a fiery 60 off 26 balls. He and Rahane, in their partnership of 121 off 50, demolished the Royal Challengers bowlers. Shah hammered 5 fours and 5 mammoth sixes as the Rajasthan Royals posted a challenging 195-2. His valuable 52 off 43 helped his team reach a respectable 146-4 against the CSK at Chennai. However, from there on, he looked merely a pale shadow of himself. In the match against the RCB at the SMS stadium he scratched around for a bit before being stumped at the individual score of 10(off 15). Against the Daredevils at Kotla he was not quick enough to appear anywhere close to the crease before the bails were disturbed. Against the same opponent at the home ground he failed to bail his team out of a batting collapse as he himself fell (1 off 3) to a flawed shot selection. He struggled against the accuracy of the Deccan Chargers bowling, scoring a sedate 28 off 32 before falling to the last delivery of the innings. He failed to provide the much needed acceleration in the death overs as the team set up a paltry total of 126-8. On his way to 28 off 24 he provided firework late in the innings, but here too was uncomfortable initially.
He has been a reliable fielder for the Royals in all the matches that he has played. His overall batting average of 37.77 in the 13 matches of IPL-5 is remarkable by T20 standards. The Royals English recruit raised the level of expectations with his early promises to which his failure to live up to in the later part seem disappointing.
To be continued