Rahul Dravid and his men return to their happy hunting ground, the Sawai Man Singh Stadium, with a tinge of sadness. With their hopes of making the playoffs dashed following a defeat to Deccan Chargers on Friday night, Rajasthan Royals will try to finish on a high by scoring over Mumbai Indians on Sunday.
Mumbai arrived here looking to win on Sunday to stay among the top four teams. As it turned out, Kings XI Punjab's loss to Delhi Daredevils on Saturday has confirmed Mumbai's place in the playoffs.
Irrespective of the outcome on Sunday, Royals has enough reasons to hold its head high. The way Dravid has led the team of not-so-accomplished cricketers and kept it in the hunt until the last week of the league has been the biggest positive.
Good opening pair
Ajinkya Rahane, who idolises Dravid, seems to have gained the most. Opening the innings with his ‘hero', Rahane remained the proud owner of the ‘Orange Cap' until Chris Gayle made up for missing the early rounds.
The Dravid-Rahane duo proved that even in the shortest format of the game, runs could be scored briskly without slogging. Playing pure cricketing shots, the pair gave sound starts by scoring consistently.
The arrival of Shane Watson and the availability of a match-fit Shaun Tait strengthened the Royals' attack and the team staked its claim of being in the playoffs.
But with the law of averages catching up with Rahane and the vulnerability of its middle-order coming to the fore, Roylas somewhat lost their way.
Dravid is sure to find it tough to motivate the team after the shattering loss at Hyderabad. Every team looks to finish with a win but not every side can find motivation in being the best among the bottom-five in the fray.
Looking back, the narrow defeats to host Delhi Daredevils and to Chennai Super Kings here have left Royals bleeding. It was one unit that punched above its weight to win four of the first six matches. But once the other teams got into the rhythm, it was never the same for the 2008 champion.
Test for Mumbai's batting
Royals' present attack consisting of Watson, Tait and Botha was not available when Mumbai prevailed in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Mumbai line-up deals with the quality attack on a true pitch and fast outfield.
Mumbai, even without playing to its reputation, has managed to stay in the hunt. Sachin Tendulkar's inconsistency has hurt the team for the better part of the league.
Rohit Sharma has risen to the occasion more than once. However, overall, the batting has looked suspect.
The bowlers, too, have not shown the consistency expected from a talent-rich side. The fact that Mumbai is placed third, despite playing nowhere closes to its best, shows the team's strength. A couple of final-over wins has kept the team in the race.
Should Mumbai ‘peak' during the playoffs, it may well emerge as a worthy champion.