RR vs MI, IPL 2021 – ‘The fault lies more with us than the pitch’


Relaid Sharjah pitch has posed tough questions for batters all around, but Royals’ shot selection and adaptability still need review

Rajasthan Royals were the last team this season to get a taste of the newly laid Sharjah pitch, and they didn’t cope well: their 90 for 9 against Mumbai Indians is now the second lowest total in IPL history for a completed innings.

Sharjah was the ground that teams went to and set up for scores in excess of 200 last season. Royals themselves have great memories of it, particularly that Rahul Tewatia innings. There was an element of completely changing up plans when going to Sharjah last season and that has persisted this season, albeit in a completely different way.

Of the seven matches played in Sharjah so far – and there are three more left, two of them playoffs – only two have involved scores of greater than 140. Only three out of 14 innings have had fewer than six wickets falling, and Punjab Kings managed to defend 125 in the second match there this season.

Royals, coming in after a high-flying chase against Chennai Super Kings in their last game in Abu Dhabi, failed to adapt and head coach Kumar Sangakkara said that while it wasn’t an ideal pitch, it was Royals’ batting that went awry.

“These types of pitches are challenging and it’s about adapting your game and being smart on it. We’ve spoken about the Sharjah wickets in the lead-up to this game, what the bowlers have to do, what the batters have to do,” he said. “That the first six overs will be easy and then it’s the case of building a platform… getting to about 15 overs with wickets in hand so we can capitalise at the back-end. For the bowlers it’s about hitting that back of a length, hitting your cross-seams, fast cutters into the pitch.


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“But you know on pitches like this, it tests not just your skill but also your flexibility and your mindset. So at times playing on pitches like this is not a bad idea. It’s not the greatest T20 pitch in terms of runs, but it is a challenging pitch in terms of coming to terms with it and then playing on it. It’s an experience, so we’ll have to wait and see how they’ll turn up for the [T20] World Cup [which follows the IPL in the UAE and Oman].”

Royals came into the game with a straightforward playoff route on paper: they needed to win their last two games and that would have done it. But the game began with a loss at the toss, which Sangakkara said went against them. After the match, captain Sanju Samson hinted at that as well, saying that batting got much easier in the second innings. The innings with the least wickets falling in Sharjah during this leg have all been in successful chases, and Mumbai’s run rate of 11.28 on Tuesday was some distance away from the next-quickest innings.

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