1. Battle of the shadow leaders
Both Ajinkya Rahane of Rajasthan Royals and Dinesh Karthik of Kolkata Knight Riders have lived in the shadows. Rahane is in and out of the international shorter formats and played his last international T20 in 2016.
Did you now that Rahane is only one of the four captains who have captained India in all three formats? (The other three are Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli) Bet you didn’t know that. Rahane is a celebrated Test player, but he’s in and out of that team too.
Karthik on the other hand has been a spare wicket-keeper for a good 14 years now. He has also been in and out of the team and KKR is his sixth IPL team! (Dinesh Karthik: Always the bridesmaid!)
So both had a point to prove but only one could make it to the Qualifier stage and maybe none to the final. That’s tough.
2. Royals began with a disadvantage
You must say that before a single ball was bowled, KKR were the firm favourites. RR are poor travellers, winning just two away matches in the 2018 season. Add to the fact that Eden Gardens happens to be one of their worst grounds for them. Then there was the absence of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, who had earlier left for England to play the Lord’s Test with Pakistan. Buttler has been in sizzling form, scoring 548 runs this season. Then there was the spectre of rain. In case of a washout, KKR would go through on the basis of a higher place on the points table.
3. Crunch matches and batting collapses
What is it about pressure and batting collapses?
In the first Qualifier, table toppers slumped to 88-6 before recovering to set a target of 140.
Then CSK were 113-8 before they came good. KKR also soon found themselves at 24-3 after some of the batsmen just threw away their wickets.
4. West Indian Calypso takes it from there
At 51-4, KKR seemed to be heading for a real small total but Shubman Gill played a cameo of 28 off 17 to get going. But it was West Indian (the masters of T20) Andre Russell who ended the innings in style. He hit 5 sixes in his 25-ball unbeaten 49 to set RR a competitive target of 170.
There is really something about the Calypso hitters who go berserk in all formats of international cricket along with tournaments like the IPL. Even in the first Qualifier with Chennai Super Kings, Sunrisers Hyderabad got a boost at the end thanks to Carlos Braithwaite’s 29-ball 43.
5. 11.5 crore an auction and 16.5 runs an over
Jaydev Unadkat had created quite a flutter at the IPL auction this year when a bidding war started and sustained by the very bubbly Preity Zinta of Kings XI Punjab and ended by RR. (Unadkat who? 1.8 million reasons to know him by now!)
RR finally paid a whopping Rs 11.5 crore for the bowling services of Unadkat. While Unadkat has been picking up wickets he was never in contention for the Purple Cap and has an abysmal bowling average and economy rate. But in this particular match his figures were 2-0-33-0. That’s 16.5 runs an over and he didn’t even complete his quota!
6. Piyush Chawla shows his fitness
RR refused to start with a batting collapse like the other teams of the playoffs so far. At the beginning of the innings Chawla did get a decision in his favour but it was soon overturned. Then when the score was 47, Chawla took a brilliant caught and bowled running to one side to break the opening partnership. That proved to be the key otherwise we might have had a big opening partnership.
7. Battle of the captains
In the first innings, KKR captain Karthik steadied the ship with a 38-ball 52. Rahane replied with a 41-ball 46. Sanju Samson gave him good company with a 38- ball 50. However where Karthik got away with his slower run rate because of the knocks of Gill and Russell, there was no redemption for Rahane-Samson.
8. It’s the run rate stupid!
In the end that was the thing that sunk RR. They kept wickets in hand and played steadily, but the asking rate simply went too high. Rahane is accused of playing to slow, not rotating the strike and not stepping up the pace and that is exactly what happened in this match. Rahane has ended IPL on that low.
9. The spin troika choke
Before this match, Chawla, Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav had taken 40-odd wickets between them for KKR in the tournament. Karthik would have looked to them to help him out and they didn’t disappoint.
While Narine had a bad day with both the bat and ball, Chawla gave just 6 runs an over and Kuldeep was top of the lot and gave just 4.5 runs an over. Both had joint figures of 8-0-42-3 and with 40% of the innings going for such a low economy rate, the going was also tough for RR.
10. Can Karthik take on Dhoni in the final?
So it was Karthik’s moment in the end. Now can he go all the way? Can he go past SRH and take Dhoni head on in the final? That would be some battle! Both CSK and KKR have two titles each so that way it’s an equal match. KKR will be confident because they take on SRH on their home ground of Eden Gardens.
Also by the author this IPL season:
SRH vs CSK roller-coaster: Top 10 Talking Points
Thala Dhoni roars his 2019 intent in style
Surprising but successful moves & misses of IPL 2018
IPL Snippets: The battle of the spouses
IPL Winners: Is it all about the power of owners?
IPL Snippets: Thala Dhoni - Injured, old, but fighting fit!
Who will be the greatest ever IPL captain after 2018
IPL Snippets: Will this 'ring' help Virat Kohli break title duck?