Rajasthan Royals’ IPL 2021 campaign is now officially over. It’s not really a dreams-are-dead situation, but one of those “it is what it is” moments in life. We lost our final league stage battle, which was against Kolkata Knight Riders, by a heavy margin of 86 runs before bowing out of the tournament. No excuses on the day, it was probably our worst performance of the season on the whole.
Quite similar to the pitch in our previous game against Mumbai Indians, Sharjah was tricky with its low, uneven bounce. But Eoin Morgan’s KKR came through on a challenging surface, despite losing the toss. Sanju Samson decided to chase after winning it, which was deemed to be our ideal scenario, but nothing worked out the way it was planned after the coin fell our way. We had made as many as four changes to our XI with Anuj Rawat, Jaydev Unadkat, Liam Livingstone, and Chris Morris coming in, as we looked to finish our season on a high.
The opening partnership between Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer survived the Powerplay despite some scares and then picked up pace gradually. Our first breakthrough only came in the 11th over, with Rahul Tewatia doing the damage by dismissing Iyer (38 off 35). The second wicket followed quickly after, with Glenn Phillips removing Nitish Rana who looked dangerous in his brief cameo of 12(5).
Meanwhile, Shubman Gill seemed invincible throughout his knock and kept building partnerships, instrumental in KKR’s final total of 171/4 – the highest at Sharjah during IPL 2021. Gill was only dismissed in the 16th over, by Chris Morris, by when most of the damage was done. The rest of the job was done with ease by the Knight Riders, via cameos from Tripathi, Morgan, and Karthik.
Chasing 172 was always going to be difficult at Sharjah, where the average innings total before this match, was mid-130s. And then, the match and the end to our season unravelled in front of our eyes, as our worst nightmares came true. A batting collapse ensued, beginning as early as the first over, with the in-form Yashasvi departing with just one run on the board.
Evin Lewis’s absence was never good news for us, and Yashasvi’s wicket just made it worse. Sanju and Liam departed soon after, in contrasting styles. Sanju flicked one uppishly to mid-wicket, a soft dismissal, while Liam’s attempt to go big saw him sky one to former Royal Tripathi, who took a fine catch.
Anuj Rawat, in his 2nd game for the Royals finally walked out to bat in the IPL for the first time, but the young man was up against an on-fire Lockie Ferguson, who was steaming in and hitting the right areas. Rawat faced a tough one first ball, and departed for a duck. As a result, we were 13/4 in the 4th over. Shivam Dube and Glenn Phillips then got together for what initially felt like a recovery partnership, but that was over soon as well, with Mavi sending Phillips back.
Mavi hit timber again, getting rid of Dube in the same over, to leave us at 34/6. All our top 6 batters except Dube (18 off 20) scored in single digits. The next over saw Chakravarthy strike, getting rid of Chris Morris as we slumped to 35/7, and in real danger of setting a new record for the IPL’s lowest ever total.
We breathed a sigh of relief then, as Rahul Tewatia and Jaydev Unadkat struck a small partnership, with the former doing the bulk of the scoring. Tewatia started by hitting Mavi for three fours in the same over, and then depositing Chakravarthy into the stands in the next over. JD had his moment by smashing the dangerous Lockie Ferguson for a nice lofted boundary, but tried again next ball and lost his wicket. It was Ferguson’s third wicket of the night, as both him and Mavi wreaked havoc on a tough Sharjah wicket.
With no batters left to support him as such, Tewatia’s knock of 44 off 36, albeit for a little while, gave us a glimpse of his love affair with Sharjah. But that was it. Shivam Mavi ended his resistance and picked up his 4th wicket, as we folded for 85, our lowest total of the season.
With that, the season has officially ended for us, and nothing left but a chance to regroup, channel that Royals spirit, find ourselves once again and come back stronger next season. Skipper Sanju Samson, in his first campaign as captain, had one of his best seasons ever in the IPL, while the season also brought many talented youngsters to the fore, something we can continue to be proud of.
There are two new IPL teams to be formed, retention plans to be locked in and a mega auction to come, but until then, all we can do is relive the best moments of the season, rejoice in our wins, ruminate on the heartbreaks, and ensure that the Royals family sticks together, like it always has.
What did think of our Indian youngsters’ performances in IPL 2021? Send in your views on Twitter at @rajasthanroyals or to me @cricketpun_duh