It’s the final week of IPL 2021 in the UAE. And a familiar sight of the tournament remains with the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) making it to the final yet again, for a record ninth time. The consistency, legacy and the supremacy of the team remains extra-large.
Rajasthan Royals have been the league’s inaugural champions. To say that was or has been the best memory of the franchise will not be an understatement. It has seen various upheavals and weathered a few storms over the years. But it still does remain a team that throws up talent consistently.
Ravindra Jadeja, Sanju Samson, Ajinkya Rahane, Jaydev Unadkat have all had a very successful tenure with the franchise. The opportunities at a young age were provided just like they are to the new upcoming players now, such as Kartik Tyagi and Chetan Sakariya.
The results, however, have not been there to boast of. Booking a place in the playoffs has not been easy for them. Even with the Indian talent coupled with foreign recruits, the struggle has been consistent. A glaring reason for that from the outside remains the lack of consistency in the playing XI.
Each year, the nucleus changes, the core changes. They let go off their players who they rely and rally around for the season for a different combination.
Yes, understandably, when one thing is not giving you results, you got to try and change it. But so much has this been their practiced system of changing the core that even now it continues to trouble them.
A player wants stability much like the franchise wants results. A player will not always have the best day or season, but the backing from the ones around and the assurance to the performer help the player bounce back quickly.
This season, injuries and non-availability of a few key players like Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes marred their team combination and with Jos Buttler not returning for the UAE leg, RR was dealt a big blow.
The seasoned players did stand up for them, led by captain Sanju Samson. But he fell short of fighting a lone battle at times. All teams had to hit the ground running in the UAE leg with only half the matches to play. A few good innings did come to the fore for the Royals, including a special bowling performance from Kartik Tyagi, who defended 4 runs in the last over against Punjab Kings.
But he missed a few games in the latter half of the tournament. One odd game might be due to a niggle he picked up, but the other games are anyone’s guess. The bowlers got rotated very frequently. We saw Akash Singh in one game, but the next game he was replaced. The batters too went in and out trying to find the right playing 11; but to little success. It all still remained on the captain’s shoulders.
Finishing the season in the bottom half leaves them with a lot to ponder upon, much like the earlier seasons. A steady core needs to be found for any team. Chennai, Mumbai and now Delhi have all gone the same path. You change, but not overhaul regularly. Sanju Samson hits a long ball from a stable base. Maybe something like that he may like to suggest for the next season.
(The writer is a former captain of Indian women’s cricket team. The views expressed are personal)