RR head coach Andrew McDonald has confirmed that, going forward, his side will continue playing the trio of Smith, Buttler and Samson in the top three, citing that the trio facing the most balls gives the team the best chance of winning. McDonald was further full of praise for Mahipal Lomror.
After failing to shrug off the Sharjah frenzy in their third game of the season versus Kolkata Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals were found wanting once again at the Dubai International Stadium on Saturday, where they slumped to a thumping eight-wicket defeat at the hands of Royal Challengers Bangalore. After winning the toss and batting first, the Royals posted an underwhelming total of 154 on the board, and the target was chased with five balls to spare by a dominant RCB, who rode the Devdutt Padikkal wave to hand RR their second consecutive defeat.
Among the talking points was the imbalance of RR’s batting line-up, with all three of Jos Buttler, Steve Smith and Sanju Samson batting up top, but speaking post match, coach Andrew McDonald confirmed that there will be no changes made to disrupt the trio - at least for the near future. McDonald insisted that the best batsmen facing more balls gives the side the best chance of winning, but admitted that Rajasthan might not yet have zeroed-in on their best XI, as they continue learning about their players.
“That’s a reflection of the last two games. We feel that the best players facing at the top facing the most deliveries gives us the best opportunity of winning. It’s something we’ll continue to discuss,” McDonald said at the post-match press conference, when asked about whether the Top 3 of Smith, Buttler and Samson will be separated.
“Like most teams in this tournament, we probably haven’t settled on our final XI, we’re still learning about our players. There have been 12 new players added to the side, so every game we’re learning about our players, but what’s key is to make really good decisions moving forward, so we’ll assess and make changes we feel are needed.”
Despite a disheartening defeat, there was a silver lining for Rajasthan in the form of young Mahipal Lomror, who shone through in his very first match in IPL 2020. Batting in the middle-order, the 20-year-old negated the RCB spinners and struck a fine 47, a knock which included one four and three humongous sixes. Coach McDonald was full of praise for the southpaw who he suggested underwent rigorous preparation in the lead-up to the game.
“Mahi (Mahipal Lomror) was a great story today. We backed him in the middle-order to do the job against the spin of RCB and he did a fantastic job. It’s always difficult to come in and get going in the first game of your tournament, but he prepared well. We were early enough here to prepare for the situations and the surfaces he was going to encounter, so he was a great success story.”
After Steve Smith won the toss, Rajasthan’s charge was pretty much killed instantly by a triple-RCB strike in the powerplay, which sent all three of Smith, Samson and Buttler back to the pavilion in under 5 overs. McDonald admitted that the triple-strike derailed the team’s plans with the bat, and was also critical of the side’s fielding, which he thought let the team down in crucial moments. The RR head coach was, however, confident of his side bouncing back in the games to follow.
“There’s always focus areas and improvements in any game of cricket. RCB taking wickets in the powerplay probably derailed us in the middle, we had to rebuild a little bit longer than we would have liked, so that’s an area we can definitely improve. It’s not a major concern, we’ve got some world-class players up top and more times than not they’re gonna succeed.
"Fielding is also an area we can improve definitely - we saw today how the good pressure we built was released by some poor fielding. That’s a focus area and the guys know that. The biggest thing for me is the players are putting in their best. Sometimes there are errors, but we just have to minimize those errors across all three disciplines.”
McDonald and Rajasthan’s next assignment will be on the 6th of October, where they will up against defending champions Mumbai Indians at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.