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Three weeks into the Indian Premier League (IPL) season, the competition remains intense with no clear dominance from any team except for the impressive performance by the Rajasthan Royals (RR). Currently leading the points table with 4 wins out of 5 matches, RR’s campaign under the leadership of Sanju Samson shows promise reminiscent of their victorious season sixteen years ago, led by Shane Warne.

At the time of writing this, RR is playing against Punjab Kings (PK). After winning the toss they inserted Punjab to bat and gave away only 38 and picked up the wicket of the opener, Atharva Taide. For PK, Shikhar Dhawan the usual skipper is sitting out due to a niggle and Sam Curran is leading in his absence.

This season of the IPL holds extra relevance since the T20 World Cup is set to start just a week after the end of the IPL. Hence, all the Indian team potentials are on the selectors’ radar. None more so than Sanju Samson, who is leading the RR side brilliantly. He looks in good batting touch but what’s got the experts praising him has been his leadership. Sanju’s decision to send Riyan Parag up the order has changed the fortunes of the young batter who has notched up 3 fifties in 5 games already.

The youngster from Assam began his IPL resurgence scoring a 29-ball 43 against Lucknow SuperGiants in the opening match. Unlike in previous seasons, Parag didn’t try to thrash the bowlers from the outset but played himself in and then attacked after being well set. He put together a match-turning 93-run stand off 59 balls with Sanju Samson, the skipper of Rajasthan Royals.

The string of impressive knocks and the maturity that Parag has displayed this IPL season marks a huge turnaround in his entire career. The one common aspect between his domestic and IPL success is that he is batting at No 4 – the position he batted for his Ranji team, Assam in all three formats. Taking a cue, Rajasthan Royals promoted him up the order from the No 6 or 7 where he played in earlier seasons. In each of the three games so far, the Royals were pegged back by early breakthroughs but in his new role at No 4, Parag has thrived and effectively turned the tide with impressive knocks.

His performances have put him in the second position on the top run scorers list behind only Kohli. His captain though isn’t far behind on the list, taking up the number 4 spot with 3 fifties himself. Both of them have been the lynch pins of the RR batting at a time when Yashasvi Jaiswal has not played to his potential this tournament.

But interestingly, while the RR batsmen have done well, it is their bowlers that have put the team at the top of the points table with 4 wins out of 5. Their solitary loss came against Gujarat Titans, which went till the last ball. RR pacer Trent Boult has been in great rhythm which has helped them get early wickets. In his first 5 matches she has picked up 5 wickets but importantly his economy has been below 8 runs per over. The other pacer, South African, Nandre Burger has picked up 6 wickets.

Moreover, the RR spinners have choked the opposition run flow after the powerplay is over. Yuzvendra Chahal is the topwicket taker along with Jasprit Bumrah having taken 10 wickets before the Punjab match. His economy has been just over 7, but along with Ravi Ashwin, he has made sure that the opposition is not able to set the totals.

The rest of the teams have been inconsistent in the tournament so far and have to take a leaf out of RR book. While it has been a high scoring IPL so far, the team that have done well have the best bowlers in their squad. The inconsistency of other teams underscores the importance of RR’s balanced approach, with a potent mix of batting and bowling prowess. As the IPL progresses, RR appears poised to not only secure a playoff spot convincingly but also contend for the championship. If Sanju Samson is able to replicate Shane Warne’s feat, it would enhance his prospects for national team selection and beyond.


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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