Rajasthan Royals (RR) suffered a chastening defeat to Punjab Kings (PBKS) in their high-scoring Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 opener this Monday (April 12). But while disappointed by the end outcome as they lost by just 4 runs, RR’s Director of Cricket, Kumar Sangakkara, chose to focus on some of the positives, including performances from his team’s promising youngsters.
RR’s chase of the 222-run target against the PBKS attack was controlled admirably by skipper Sanju Samson from an end. Samson made a superlative hundred and nearly took his team home singlehandedly. There was, however, not much support provided by others in the batting unit.
The only bright spot was young batter Riyan Parag, who did share Samson’s workload in a 52-run stand where he contributed an 11-ball 25 featuring three massive sixes before being dismissed by PBKS quick Mohammad Shami. After the match, feeling bad over the loss and not being able to continue when he had looked so good, Parag tweeted “I’m shit”.
Sangakkara, though, made it a point to say at the post-match press conference in Mumbai that Parag is a “special player”, whom he expects to serve RR for a very long time.
“Riyan is a special player as you would have seen,” said Sangakkara. “He has amazing hand speed and great composure and the fast bowler Shami with his experience took a risk bowling the bumper at the time and Riyan just didn’t get enough bat on it. That’s that’s the nature of the game. Risk and reward; I love watching Riyan play with that freedom.”
“When you play with freedom sometimes wickets do fall. Sanju and him had a wonderful partnership and got us into the game with batters to come to try and finish it. I’m really encouraged by the passion and the commitment shown by the younger players,” he added.
Kumar Sangakkara Heaps Praise on RR’s Youngsters Despite Painful Loss Versus PBKS
Another young RR talent that Sangakkara took special note of is left-arm pacer Chetan Sakariya who, on his IPL debut, showed no nerves and returned with figures of 3/31 off his 4 overs. Sakariya started off very well in the powerplay overs and also proved quite effective at the death for his team.
The 23-year-old Saurashtra quick was picked by RR for a sum of INR 1.20 crores at the auction in February following his superb performances at the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 earlier in the year.
Sakariya’s control in the final stages of the innings, where he exhibited decent change-ups and variations, led Sangakkara to confidently say he can be their regular death-bowling option in the season.
“Yeah, no doubt,” he said. “I think he was just brilliant. You know his skill was on display but it was really wonderful to watch him bowl well in such a high-scoring match. He’s always smiling, always in the game. He took an amazing catch at short fine leg. He managed to come back and bowl with the new ball. Then he bowled at the death. You know, everyone was taking some punishment, so it speaks a lot about his skill, his attitude, and it’s great to have him in the side.”
“He is a simple guy, and he’s had ups and downs in life and he’s here to enjoy his cricket and our job is to support that and it’s really good to see the control that he had and the change-ups and picked the moments to bowl them. He’ll get better and things will get tougher when batsmen get used to him and analysing a bit more, but I think Chetan is a young man who I think will have a very, very good future,” Sangakkara added.
With 5 runs needed off the last 2 balls, Samson denied a single when he couldn’t get the big shot as he desired and looked to keep strike for the final delivery considering how well he had batted till then. As it happened, unfortunately, Samson was dismissed caught trying to hit a maximum through the off-side, resulting in a bitter defeat for RR.
Samson has received criticism from certain corners for denying the single to RR’s all-rounder Chris Morris, who had made 2 runs off 4 balls till then. Sangakkara, then, defended his team’s skipper by explaining the rationale behind Samson’s no-run gesture to Morris on the penultimate ball.
“I think Sanju backed himself to get the job done and he nearly did,” he said. “He was five or six runs short of hitting their last four for six. And sometimes when you know you’re hitting the ball well and you’re in form and you believe that you can do it, you’ve got to take the responsibility and it’s really encouraging to see Sanju do that.”
“We can always talk about missing out here or there, but for me the crucial thing is players’ belief, attitude and commitment into what they know their strengths are and Sanju took it upon himself to finish that game and he just fell a few yards short and that happens. Next time he’ll hit it that 10 yards further to win us the game,” Sangakkara added.
Rajasthan Royals (RR) next face Delhi Capitals (DC) on Thursday (April 15) in Mumbai.