That win, however spectacular, was a near-miracle that is unlikely to be repeated. A closer look will reveal the problem with the Royals’ strategy. Two of Rajasthan’s five batsmen (the count includes their wicketkeeper) are Robin Uthappa and Riyan Parag. Uthappa strikes at a barely passable 130 in IPL, but since the start of 2019 it has come down to 109. Parag, who made his debut last season, strikes at 121 Ipl 2021 schedule pdf .
Between them, Uthappa and Parag have managed a mere 25 runs from six innings, off 32 balls. Rajasthan might have won twice despite a failing middle order, but unless they or bring in reinforcements, they are headed for trouble, especially if they lose a couple of quick wickets early in their innings. That is exactly what happened against Kolkata.
Unfortunately, Rajasthan’s options do not ooze much confidence. Ben Stokes’ unavailability has hit them hard. They have, till now, failed to find a balanced XI. They can bring in David Miller, but that will mean leaving out Tom Curran. Yashasvi Jaiswal is probably the best bet, but his best performances have come at the top, which will mean pushing two of Buttler, Smith, and Samson down the order.
Of the other options, Aniruddha Joshi is probably the best option for his ability to hit out in the death overs. He is likely to get the nod ahead of Mahipal Lomror and Manan Vohra despite the former’s ability to bowl left-arm spin.
However, Rajasthan’s failed strategy should not take the sheen off the Kolkata pace attack. Their persistence with Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi paid off. After Pat Cummins provided the early blow, the youngsters picked up four wickets between them, wrecking the top order. Between them, they had 7-0-46-5 – the wickets being of the first five batsmen to be dismissed. The Kolkata spinners were hardly needed.
The fast bowler of the evening, however, was Archer, whose figures read 3.3-0-7-2 at one point. The ball that claimed Dinesh Karthik deserves special mention. It pitched on a length and jagged away, just brushing the outside edge en route the wicketkeeper.
Archer’s last three balls went for 11, but that included a six off the last ball that Curran should have caught. It hurt Rajasthan more than the runs, for Eoin Morgan was on eight at that point, off 12 balls. Including that six, he scored 26 off the next 11 balls he faced. Along with Pat Cummins and Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Morgan helped add 59 off the last 34 balls. For perspective, Rajasthan’s first five partnerships added 42 between them.
Like Rajasthan, Kolkata, too, went in with four batsmen (this includes Andre Russell) and a wicketkeeper. Unlike Rajasthan, however, the Kolkata bowlers can bat. After being dropped early in the innings, Sunil Narine hit three crucial boundaries, while both Cummins and Nagarkoti chipped in.
What is more, unlike Rajasthan, the Kolkata top order does not have any weak link. Six of them (including Narine) strike at over 130, and even among them, three are above the 140-mark. This hard-hitting sextet, of whom two – Narine and Russell – can bowl, followed by two bowlers who can bat, make Kolkata a deceptively explosive batting line-up.
Despite their early defeat, Kolkata seem to be one of the most rounded teams in this edition. What adds to their strength is their reserve bench. In fact, their overseas contingency is so strong that they might it difficult to field the likes of Lockie Ferguson, Ali Khan, and even Tom Banton.
The same cannot be said of Rajasthan, whose batting seems too dependent on their top three and the spin attack does not feature finger spinners.