We know by now that Rajasthan Royals are not the most talented of T20 sides. But, it is equally true that Rahul Dravid’s men have formulated their own path to success, at least when it comes to home games. It is not based on brutal hitting or scintillating bowling, but a smart team strategy wherein each player is given a specific role and is expected to deliver his best. This pattern of theirs was evident in the match against Lions as well. They did not dominate the game completely, but won the crucial moments and with it the match.
The match-clinching phase for the Royals came during the last few overs of the innings when they batted first. A competitive score seemed to be in the offing when Brad Hodge came in and smashed the ball to all parts of the ground to move the total from one that was challenging to something that looked more match-winning. Hodge may not have gotten the chance to shine for Australia at the top level, but he has often displayed his prowess in the T20 format, and Wednesday at Jaipur was another day in the office for him.
The best part about Hodge’s batting is that he has two sides to his game, and can bring out the desired one as per the demands of the situation. Against Lions, the need of the hour was to go after the bowling, and Hodge did not hold back. His assault on Lions’ bowlers was as brutal as it could get, and the fact that he did not spare even Sohail Tanvir, the opponents’ best bowler till that point, spoke of the kind of murderous mood he was in. The last couple of overs when Hodge destroyed Lions also gave them a psychological boost as they went into the break.
Without doubt, Hodge’s attacking knock made a big difference, but the contributions from the others was what allowed him to take charge at the end. Skipper Rahul Dravid has never promised to be an attacking hitter, but he again gave the side a measured start after Ajinkya Rahane fell early. Shane Watson and Stuart Binny built up the total with breezy cameos before Hodge took charge towards the end. Royals’ approach of going steady at the start and attacking without inhibitions towards the end may not always work, as it did on against Lions. But, it cannot be argued that the approach gives them their best chance of winning matches.
Lions did have a few batsmen who could challenge the total. Unfortunately for them, those who got starts in the beginning could not carry on. Unlike while batting first, it is difficult to recover while chasing since you know at the back of your mind that there is a certain target to achieve. Vikramjeet Malik’s double-wicket burst in the fifth over was a big setback for Lions after they had already lost opener Quinton de Kock early on. If they had any hopes left, 41-year-old leggie Pravin Tambe blew them away with his four-wicket burst. In the end, it came down to Hodge’s brilliance, which stood out as the difference.
--By A Cricket Analyst