Till a few matches back, it was almost a certainty that Rajasthan Royals would progress to the play-offs. Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai were just one defeat away from exiting the event while Rajasthan needed only a couple of wins with around five to six games left. Possibly, this is where Rajasthan got complacent, at least it seemed so to the viewers and the critics. Some of the tactics and selections by Rajasthan in the last few games are beyond the realm of logic. Still, going into their final match against Mumbai Indians, they were the favourites since Mumbai had too much to do to qualify. The fact that Mumbai managed to pull off the miraculous win was as much due to Corey Anderson’s spectacle as it was owing to shambolic bowling.
Looking back at Rajasthan’s performance in IPL 7, they have only themselves to blame for ending up in fifth position. Under normal circumstances, the result would have been a credible one for Rajasthan, but considering where they were placed with five matches to go, they would be gutted. Rajasthan made too many changes that were unnecessary, and had to pay a heavy price for the same in the end. Had they just applied some common sense and maintained a sense of balance towards the latter stages of the league stage, they surely would have made it through to the play-offs.
The biggest mistake that Rajasthan made was dropping Ajinkya Rahane, Pravin Tambe and Steven Smith for a match when they were still not assured of qualification for play-offs. They tried out other stuff as well, which was pretty much unnecessary, like opening with Shane Watson and Ankit Sharma though Karun Nair and Rahane had formed a formidable partnership at the top of the order. The experimented continued with a few other players as well. Rahane did not even bat against Mumbai, which was shocking to say the least.
Lack of utilisation of their in-form players was another important aspect where Rajasthan were found out. James Faulkner and Steven Smith were two of their form players with the bat, but they rarely got enough overs to bat in most of the games. In fact, Smith featured in only 10 of the 14 matches that Rajasthan played in the tournament. Both Faulkner and Smith finished the event with best scores of 40s; this says a lot about how Rajasthan failed to give their performing players ample scope to shine.
The failure of a couple of big players did not help the team’s cause. Skipper Shane Watson managed only a couple of half-centuries. He needed to do a lot more considering he was the side’s star player as well. Lack of runs from the likes of Abhishek Nayar and Stuart Binny also proved detrimental to the team’s cause. By the time, Anderson began his attack on Rajasthan’s bowlers, the pressure had got to them. Faulkner, Dhawal Kulkarni and even Watson were atrocious. In a sense, Rajasthan might consider themselves unlucky. Then again, they only have themselves to blame.
--By A Cricket Analyst