Rajasthan Royals' season came to a sorry end after the defeats in hands of Delhi Capitals by five wickets. The decimals of difference in Net Run Rate (NRR) and points may have resulted in Rajasthan not making it to Playoffs this season. However, if their fans look back at the season gone by, they would picture a listless team roaming around on the field, led by as listless a captain in Ajinkya Rahane.
Steve Smith's reincarnation as the leader helped their cause for a while but it did not rain long as the monsoon of victories lasted just a few games. Rahane captained the side in the last league match and he brought the same old RR back to the fore, making the owners and management believe more in their decision of transferring the armband to Smith.
Paddy Upton, head coach of Rajasthan Royals, dwelled down on the shortcomings of the team, suggesting that Rajasthan's biggest learning was to never let the match go off the hook at any moment of the match.
"What's happened with IPL today is that we are seeing that margins of winning and losing are getting narrower and narrower. It is actually getting down to some time one boundary, somewhere through the 40 overs, and it could be in the third over.
"What we really learned is every ball is an event. We had heard this before. Now, we are starting to discover how true that is. That you really have to have absolute clarity and excellent execution on every single delivery. A bowler can't just bowl the first ball to start an over to get into the groove. His first has got to be his best ball. Because a lot of batsmen are targeting that first ball. They can't just run in and bowl the six balls in the over. Those six deliveries in an over need to be their best six deliveries."
Upton was correct in his judgment as Rajasthan's new-ball bowlers struggled to pick wickets in the first three overs consistently. In fact, apart from Jofra Archer and Shreyas Gopal and then Varun Aaron and Oshane Thomas at the back end of the tournament, no one really stood up with the ball. In batting too, there were a few match winners. Rahane consistently failed at the top, and despite Jos Buttler getting off to quick starts, former Rajasthan captain's slow starts brought the run-scoring rate down.
Upton continued with his point of playing the best cricket you can every ball of the game, even as a batsman. He said, "As a batsman, sometimes, you cannot take six balls to get going. At times, you have to take two balls and get into the mood. This attention to detail is where we probably fell short on in some of the games, both with bat and ball and that has been a lesson."
But there were still some positives for Rajasthan even after completing at seventh on the points table. There were three for sure — Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, and Sanju Samson. Upton spoke at length on all three. In Archer, he sees a player who can become the hottest property in T20 cricket but if he could continue to bowl like he is doing and now improve a little in the batting department. He said, "I saw some of the most skilled T20 bowling when Archer bowled. He has got an incredible strategic smart six balls for four overs in a row. His strategy and execution were as good as I have seen in T20 cricket. If he is able to come back to this zone in the long run, and if his batting comes into play, he will become one of the hottest properties in T20 cricket."
Upton had words of high praise for one of the most successful bowlers in IPL 2019 Gopal as well. He marked the 25-year-old spinner's work ethic as key to his success. He said, "He (Gopal) is a quiet, subdued player. He is a professional. He has delivered with the ball on key moments. In batting, he has been able to deliver as well whenever required. He is hungry to learn and keep getting better. For him, it is awesome that it is being paid off. He has played the roles of spinner very well for us."
But Upton's best praise was left for arguably Rajasthan's best batsman in the last couple of years — Sanju Samson. The head coach said, "I have been a fan of Sanju since I met him when he was 18 years old. Samson has been one of the crispiest hitters of the ball in the game. He is incredible. When Sanju gets to bat, I don't want to miss a ball. We knew Sanju can play at all position. He is a masterful batsman. He is still young and I look forward to watching him hit bowlers back over their head when they over-pitch it."