Ruthless Rajasthan needed this reality check to line up better
"Good night to all fans whose team has a 100% record in (Indian T20 League 2020)"
The above sign-off after their loss to Kolkata shows how Rajasthan have been on top of their social media game this season and until tonight, it seemed like they were on course for a brilliant campaign. But the switch from the flat belters in Sharjah to the dry surface and long boundaries in Dubai proved to be a massive challenge for Rajasthan as they succumbed to their first defeat in this season.
One defeat in three games and sitting near the top of the points table would ideally mean that Rajasthan do not really have to panic. But, is that actually the case? More than just the panic-driven shots in the run-chase, Rajasthan seem to have a dimension or two lesser on the kind of surfaces they will play most of their games on this season.
In a way, the reality check early in the season is good for the Royals. They have been tactically brilliant on the field, and a possible shuffle in their playing XI and usage of resources could serve them well.
That Rajasthan top-order is as fierce as they come. Steven Smith, Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson are the core of this batting line-up, but they do seem heavily reliant on them. If not for the Rahul Tewatia blitz, Rajasthan would have been found out in the previous game itself.
Their middle-order sorely needs strengthening up. Will they consider pushing Yashasvi Jaiswal into the top order and moving Smith to No. 4? While that seems more flexible and helps add experience in the middle, Smith isn't really the most attacking when it comes to T20 cricket.
The other option is to sit out Tom Curran - even considering that blistering half-century - for David Miller but the South African's T20 record of late is suspect too. Rajasthan will hope for Ben Stokes' return but if that doesn't happen, they need alternative plans.
Discarding Robin Uthappa could be on the cards. Shashank Singh, who bats middle-order and bowls tidy off-spin is a decent candidate to have alongside Riyan Parag, Jofra Archer and Rahul Tewatia.
The bowling attack
Jofra Archer is obviously the lynchpin of this bowling attack, but Rajasthan have struggled on every other front in their bowling this season. Jaydev Unadkat has been below par, conceding 88 in nine overs this year with just the one wicket. Ankit Rajpoot was reasonable tonight and should continue to play.
But aside from that, Tom Curran has conceded big too and it essentially seems like RR have a lot of one-dimensional bowlers. Akash Singh, who bowls left-arm pace is an exciting option. But the best on the bench might be Kartik Tyagi, highly touted in domestic circles. The Under-19 pacer had a great World Cup too and will be a handy addition given that he is known to bowl perfect yorkers.
Death bowling has been a concern for Rajasthan this season too and Tyagi might be able to help them on that front.
The spin attack
Shreyas Gopal is the fourth-best wicket-taker in the middle overs in the Indian T20 League since 2018 but has glaringly been listless with the ball this season, barely evoking any false shots from the batsmen. Complementing him is Tewatia whose batting is clearly appearing a stronger suit.
Somehow, the Rajasthan spin attack seems to lack a sting despite the overdose of wrist spinners in the line-up. Will they consider adding an extra spinner in Mayank Markande? However, it will make the attack too one-dimensional with a third leggie.
Shashank Singh, who bowls off-spin, is the only different spinner in the entire squad and should play. Mahipal Lomror is also a good bet given that he bats deep and can chip in with some slow left-arm spin. One of these two in the middle could serve Rajasthan better than what Uthappa is doing right now.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter.com / Indian T20 League