There were a few confused faces in the Rajasthan Royals (RR) dressing room when Sanju Samson took a decision to deny Chris Morris a single on the penultimate ball of the IPL season-opener against Punjab Kings (PBKS).
Needing five runs from two balls, Samson didn’t take the guaranteed single, triggering a huge debate. RR director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara had backed Samson’s decision to retain strike for the last ball, saying it was encouraging to see the skipper take the ‘responsibility’.
Samson was blamed for the loss because of his action. Although Sangakkara explained that he always respects players’ belief in attitude and commitment, the cricketing fraternity was divided over Samson’s decision.
And so far, it has been a season of disappointment for the Royals – who have a solitary win in their kitty after four outings. And to make matters worse, a devastating 10-wicket defeat against Royal Challengers Bangalore has sort of dented the team’s confidence further.
With the side reeling, there are questions on whether it is the self-belief or the leadership crisis that’s hurting the team?
It is a similar story for Kolkata Knight Riders, especially after their narrow 18-run defeat against Chennai Super Kings despite a rear-guard effort from KKR’s middle and lower order.
Both the captains Samson and Eoin Morgan are under scanner now for their ‘unjustified’ decisions as claimed by many. In the earlier match against RCB, Morgan replaced mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy with Shakib Al Hasan when Glenn Maxwell came to bat. This move by Morgan raised many questions as Maxwell went to play an explosive innings.
Keeping the varying nature of the pitches in mind, both the teams will lock horns to gain ascendancy on Saturday, leaving aside the shortcomings.
Royals’ middle-order has been a huge concern for the franchise in the ongoing season. The middle-order has not been up to the mark with the bat. Barring cameos from the likes of Rahul Tewatia and Tom Curran, the RR middle order doesn’t inspire much confidence.
The focus will again be on Jos Buttler and newly-appointed skipper Samson, who are all capable of delivering the goods against any side.
After a comprehensive win against Sunrisers Hyderabad in their first match, the Knight Riders’ form has been questioned. It lost from a position of strength against both Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Boasting of a solid middle order in Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik and Morgan, this was a season of promise for Knights but some rudderless planning did not help their cause.
Having logged just one win in three matches in the Chennai leg, Shah Rukh Khan’s franchise will need a bit more consistency from its middle-order of Rahul Tripathi, Morgan and Karthik.
It’s a fact that Shakib is not scoring quickly enough but Morgan feels that the spin bowling all-rounder, who had success in international cricket and IPL at different stages will definitely deliver. Karthik continues to provide Morgan with the required support.
Often dubbed as one of the best finishers in the cash-rich league, Russell cut a frustrated figure when the team was outclassed by Virat Kohli’s RCB. The team will need a bit more consistency from its middle-order.
While they have often appeared to be a dominant side on paper, the results haven’t always been that impressive on the field and they will hope to turn it around on Saturday.