Author : Vignesh Ananthasubramanian
Defeating Rajasthan Royals at the Sawai Man Singh stadium, Jaipur is as difficult as an Engineering course. You need to play out of your skin to get the better of Royals in their own backyard. True to the reputation, the Rajasthan Royals, who played all their matches at home have qualified for the semifinals unbeaten.
The crucial semifinal though is against Chennai Super Kings but the invincible run at Jaipur will put the Royals as firm favourites against their IPL rivals. But at the same time, the mighty yellow brigade will look to halt the Royal March at the SMS stadium.
Keeping all these things apart, the good news for the Indian fans is that there will be an Indian team in the finals and there is also an equal possibility for an all Indian finals if Mumbai Indians manage to sneak through Trinidad and Tobago in the second semifinals on Saturday. We take a deep look into what we have in store in the first semifinals.
Before the beginning of the final league game, Chennai Super Kings was expected to top their group and get in line for a possible face off against their arch rivals Mumbai Indians in the semifinals.
It needed Trinidad and Tobago to chase the target set by CSK within 17.4 overs to avoid a clash with Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur. As expected, T&T achieved the target well ahead of the stipulated overs and topped their group ahead of tournament favourites CSK. On virtue of finishing second in their group, CSK had no other chance but facing Rajasthan Royals at the SMS stadium, Jaipur.
Royals are having a 12 match winning streak at their home ground and would like to make it to 13 after the semifinals. Both the teams know each other well and are in fine form throughout the series. So this contest is expected to be a cracker of the game and the fans would expect the rain gods to stay away from Jaipur.
As per the meteorological department, Isolated Thunderstorms has been the menu on the match day. In case the game gets washed out by rain, it will be the Rajasthan Royals progressing to the finals on the virtue of topping their group.
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As mentioned earlier, Royals are a strong force to reckon with when they are playing at the SMS stadium. They know the nature of the pitch well and they will have majority of the crowd support when compared to the opposition. Their bowlers are in fine form and the batsmen needs to be consistent in order to book a place in the finals.
Skipper Rahul Dravid didn’t have the kind of farewell tournament he would have like to. Sanju Samson and Brad Hodge are having a dream tournament. The 19-year-old batsman from Kerala has been a class act for the Royals. The 38-year-old Victorian Brad Hodge too raised few serious eyebrows regarding his age as he thrashed his opponents all round the park and threw himself in the field like a 20-year-old youngster.
Stuart Binny has been consistent whenever he comes out to bat and Ashok Menaria is yet to be tested in the tournament. On bowling front, Vikramjeet Malik and Kevon Cooper along with old war horse Pravin Tambe are calling the shots.
Their main area of concern will be the form of their Aussie imports Shane Watson and James Faulkner. The performances of Faulkner in the 2013 IPL and CLT20 are contrasting. He narrowly missed out the purple cap in the IPL but here in CLT20, he is struggling to pick up wickets.
On the other hand, Royals’ star all-rounder Watson, according to his standards didn’t have a decent tournament with the bat. He struggled to be his usual self and failed to put the pressure on the opposition bowlers as he used to do so in the past.
The Royals will have to start from the scratch for the semifinals. They will look for Shane Watson to make an impact as he did against the CSK in the 2013 IPL.
Chennai Super Kings:
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They might have lost their final group game against T&T, but CSK will have a point to prove against Rajasthan Royals in the semifinals. CSK is one of the few teams that are more than capable of breaching the Royal fortress.
They play the same XI throughout the tournament and the team management wouldn’t like to tinker with the combination. As always, the whistle podu men heavily rely on Mike Hussey, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni in the batting department and the bowling responsibilities are given to the safe hands of Dwayne Bravo and R Ashwin.
Their opener Murali Vijay is getting back to the groove and he always loves the big stage. No wonder if Vijay scores big in the semifinals. Jason Holder and Mohit Sharma are doing their respective jobs perfectly.
The form of their premier all rounders Albie Morkel and Ravindra Jadeja should give their skipper MS Dhoni some head ache ahead of the semis. But Dhoni keeps things cool and simple by putting more faith in his warriors. Morkel struggled hard to get bat on ball against T&T and he is failing to pick up wickets and control the run flow time and time again.
On the other hand, million dollar man Jadeja has had a horrible tournament. He has scored just 3 runs with the bat and gifted away runs to opposition that gave him an economy of 12. He might just hold his place in the XI as the Super Kings will hope for the knighted warrior to fire for them in the knockouts.
Come October 4, 2013, CSK will look to conquer the Royal fortress in Jaipur.
The league stage is over and the teams need to start afresh in the knockouts where they will be out of the tournament if they lose a game unlike the IPL.
With their 12 match winning streak on the line, can the Royals outshine their opposition yet again? Or will Dhoni’s men prove their mettle by beating Rajasthan at their own backyard?
So an exciting high voltage clash is on the cards and the fans would hope for the rain gods to stay away.