The permutations and combinations are all set to come to the fore as the group stage of the Indian Premier League nears its conclusion. Sanju Samson was once again left to rue on how his side unravelled after a strong start as Rajasthan Royals beat the Punjab Kings by four wickets in what was the last group stage match of the season for both teams.
The Royals, visitors at the HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala, won the toss and opted to bowl. They restricted the Kings to 187/5 and chased down the total – scoring 189/6 – with two balls to spare.
“With the team that we have, the quality of players, quality of characters, it’s a bit shocking to see where we stand in the table at this point in time. If you honestly look back at the season, there’s definitely things to look back upon, discuss about and learn from it,” said RR skipper Samson during the post-match presentation.
With the loss, the Kings, have fallen out of contention to make the top four, finishing with 12 points (six wins and eight losses). The Royals meanwhile, though currently placed fifth, are still in a with a chance.
They’re level on 14 points with fourth-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore and sixth placed Mumbai Indians, both of whom have a match to play. Should either RCB or MI win their last group stage match against Gujarat Titans and Sunrisers Hyderabad respectively, the season will be over for RR. An ideal situation for the Jaipur team would be that both RCB and MI lose by big margins so that they can pip-the Bangalore side on net run rate.
Looking back though, both sets of captains asserted there was a lot to learn from the season.
Shikhar Dhawan, for whom this was a first IPL season as skipper, he claimed that the biggest drawback was being able to get all departments working at the same time.
“In all the areas, we could have done better. Sometimes our batting was clicking, sometimes the bowling was clicking. We couldn’t get it all together in one go. At some times we did. It’s a young side, so the graph was up and down. I’m sure with this season the boys must have learnt a lot of things, even as a leader I learnt a lot. We all make mistakes, but we learn a lot from them,” Dhawan said after the match.
PBKS had lost three wickets within the batting powerplay, and relied on the heroics of Sam Curran (unbeaten on 49 off 31), Jitesh Sharma (44 off 28) and Shahrukh Khan (41* off 23) to get them to 187.
In response, Yashasvi Jaiswal and eventual player-of-the-match Devdutt Padikkal scored half-centuries, 50 and 51 respectively, with Shimron Hetmyer scoring 46 off 28.
“At the end of the game, when Hetmyer was going so big, we figured somewhere around 18.5 (overs) would be a good place to finish,” said Samson, about the Net Run Rate situation, that only improved marginally.
“The second half has been a different kind of IPL for us. The last three games, the pressure has been up there, even till the last ball (today) when we finished off the game.”
RR – champions of the inaugural season in 2008 – finish the group stage with seven wins and just as many losses to account for their 14 points. Their destiny now lies in the hands of KRR, MI and RCB, who play their last matches over the weekend.