Lot at stakes for Super Kings against Rajasthan Royals

May 23rd, 2008 - 5:51 pm ICT by admin  

Chennai, May 23 (IANS) The stakes are high for the Chennai Super Kings who need to beat the Rajasthan Royals here Saturday to keep their semi-final hopes alive in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 tournament. In fact, the Super Kings, who will conclude their league engagements next week with an away game against Hyderabad Deccan Chargers, have few options before them. The Chennai outfit needs to beat both Royals and the Chargers to confirm their progress to the knockout phase.

The Shane Warne-led Royals have booked their entry into semi-finals with a tally of 18 points from 11 games along with Kings XI Punjab (16 from 11). The Super Kings (14 from 11), along with Mumbai Indians (12 from 11) and the Delhi Daredevils (13 from 13) are involved in a three-way tussle for the remaining two semi-final spots.

The Mumbai Indians versus Delhi Daredevils game is also scheduled for Saturday at 8pm in New Delhi and the outcome of this game will also have a bearing on Super Kings’ chances.

Thus, the pressure will be on the Super Kings on the morrow to pick up two points against a team that has played a near-flawless game, winning nine matches in a row after losing their opening two ties.

Super Kings skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who had slammed his batsmen for the stunning loss to Bangalore Royal Challengers here Wednesday, has since declared that he would not like to leave it until the final league game against the Deccan Chargers but make it to the semis by defeating the Rajasthan Royals.

Incidentally, the Super Kings had lost to the Royals in their away game at Jaipur after being dismissed for 109, with Sohail Tanvir taking six for 14. Four days later, the Super Kings went down to the Chargers by seven wickets in Chennai.

The Royals appear all primed up, given their inspiring performances, all-round strength and consistency, something that the Super Kings can hardly boast of. Rather, Dhoni’s men would need to raise their game considerably if they hope to put it across the Royals.

Quite the biggest hurdle in the path of the Super Kings is their own inconsistent performances, be it with the bat or the ball. The batting line-up, that once wore a formidable look, appears rather brittle and suspect under pressure as was evident against the Challengers when they lost seven wickets for 25 runs in just five overs.

Ironically, it was the Super Kings bowlers who provided a platform for winning the game by pegging the Challengers to 126 for eight, but the batsmen fared abysmally during the chase.

Against the Royals, the Super Kings cannot expect charity considering the ruthlessness with which Warne and his troops have destroyed their opponents. In contrast, Dhoni’s seemingly laid-back style of captaincy will be put to test when he comes up against the legendary Aussie whose leadership has been far more visible than that of his counterpart.

With the semi-final slot safely in their pocket, the Royals would be playing with far more freedom on the morrow with Warne hinting at “experimenting” while the mental strength and all-round ability of the Super Kings, not to mention Dhoni’s captaincy, would be under close scrutiny.

In the league so far, Super Kings have rarely clicked as a team where the bowlers and the batsmen have come good at the same time. This is reflected in their negative Net Run Rate and that is another millstone around the Chennai team’s collective neck.

Thus, on paper, the Royals appear the better team that has played smarter cricket than the Super Kings, and if Warne’s men are already planning a Saturday night out on town in celebration, then optimism is not misplaced.

Having said that, the Jaipur side would do well to guard against complacency, a blunder that the Super Kings committed against the Challengers, by taking victory for granted rather than work for it.

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