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ROYALS CRASH OUT BUT IPL ALL SET FOR A GRAND KKR-SRH FINALE

It was a sad end to a memorable campaign for Rajasthan Royals (RR) as they crashed out of the IPL 2024, losing to the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the second Eliminator. Now, the final of this thrilling IPL season will be between Kolkata Knight Riders(KKR) and Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday evening in Chennai. Eventually, the Top Two after the league phase have both managed to find an entry in the grand finale and it’s only fair that the 2 best teams compete for this year’s IPL trophy.

Unfortunately, for the RR it was a case of so near and yet so far. The franchise has not been able to win a title since the 2008 inaugural edition, where inspired captaincy by Shane Warne helped Royals to clinch the championship. The start of the season for RR was fabulous and after the first half, they looked to be the team which had all its bases covered and seemed set for a Top 2 finish on the points table.

In the second half of the season, RR’s momentum inexplicably slipped away! After winning 4 games on a trot and being in a comfortable position with 8 wins out of 9 games, RR lost the next 4 games in a row. Their last league game with KKR was abandoned due to rain. This put the Royals effectively out of the top positions and they ultimately made the playoffs as number 3 on the points table.

While the RR side managed to win comfortably against Royal Challengers Bengaluru(RCB) in the first knockout, they had another hurdle to cross before sealing a bert for the finals. SRH has been in great form and it was always expected to be a tough encounter for RR but their eventual capitulation will not go down well with the fans.

Sunrisers Hyderabad were put into bat by RR after winning the toss. They began well but stuttered to be at 120 for 6 after 14 overs. But Royals couldn’t consolidate on the opportunity to bowl them out and SRH managed to reach 175, courtesy a 34 ball 50 by Heinrich Klaasen. For once, RR’s star performers throughout the season, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravi Ashwin, were unimpressive and ended their IPL’s final game without a wicket between them.

It was still a game for RR to lose since it has been a high scoring season and 176 wasn’t a steep target by any means in the modernday era. It was a decent start as Yashaswi Jaiswal hit a 21 ball 42 but after he threw his wicket away to a reckless shot in the 8th over, RR never recovered. The middle order proved to be its Achilles Heel once again with no batter apart from Dhruv Jurel scoring more than 10! Ultimately, RR was put out of its misery, losing to SH by 36 runs.

This was a season where many RR players shone and made their presence felt. The early success of the team could be attributed to Sanju Samson , the leader. He was astute in his decision making and led by example. He will also be credited for promoting Riyan Parag up the order where he batted brilliantly all through the season. It was also a great comeback by Chahal who earned an India call up for the upcoming T20 World Cup due to his IPL performance.

For now, the stage is set for an epic battle between SRH and KKR. They are both heavily dependent on their top order to give them an aggressive start but also have reliable middle order batsmen to take control in case there is a wobble. The key players for SRH will once again be Travis Head, Abhishek Sharma, Heinrich Klaasen and Pat Cummins. KKR bowlers will be wary of the brutal attack that the SH openers are capable of and would look to create pressure from the onset and not let the game drift.

On the other side, KKR have Sunil Narine in the most amazing form of his career both with bat and ball. He has 482 runs to add to his 16 wickets and in all probability will be the Player of the Tournament if he succeeds in the finals as well. Phil Salt and Shreyas Iyer have been in great nick too, always taking the momentum created by Sunil Narine ahead.

In respect to the larger scheme of things, the IPL was a perfect platform for the players to be ready for the T20 World Cup which begins just a week after in the U.S.A and the Caribbean. While the rivalries between fans may have existed during the League, they will all unite for the national team and hope that America proves lucky for the Indians!

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Siddhaarth Mahan The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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