In this edition of the Indian Premier League, Rajasthan Royals faced Gujarat Titans twice – a group league fixture and the first qualifier – and have lost on both occasions.
And, the two teams will once again meet on Sunday for the final of the tournament at Narendra Modi Stadium.
While the Gujarat outfit, led by Hardik Pandya, appears confident ahead of its first-ever outing in the ‘home ground’, Rajasthan Royals team management is aware that it would be a tough challenge to tame the Titans at their den.
But even then, Royals – playing its second tournament final since 2008 – hope to be third-time lucky against the Gujarat outfit. Royals’ director of cricket, Kumar Sangakkara, understands that Hardik is an exceptional player and a lot in the final will depend on him and his strategies.
“He (Hardik) is an exceptional player. He’s led his side really well. They’re an exceptional team, highly skilled, really well settled and performing at peak consistently throughout the tournament, so it’s going to be a tough challenge,” Sangakkara said on Friday, soon after beating Royal Challengers Bangalore in the second qualifier.
“But you’ve got a day off, relax with this game behind us. First talk about it, accept what happened, appreciate it and then put it behind us and get ready for the next game against Gujarat. We understand this but we just have to be ready and skillful enough on the day. So let’s see what happens,” he said.
In the first qualifier at Eden Gardens, Royals failed to defend 188, with David Miller taking Prasidh Krishna to the cleaners in the final over – hitting him for three consecutive sixes.
“Prasidh is exceptionally skilled. He thinks deeply and quite a lot about how he plays and the game, which is a very good thing. But at the same time, to arrange your bowling and the execution in a manageable form where you try and just concentrate on the things that you can control and not worry too much about anything else that can distract you,” Sangakkara said, explaining how the support staff worked with the Karnataka player and helped him to bounce back. Prasidh grabbed three wickets against Royal Challengers, playing a key hand in Royals’ entry into the finals.
”The other thing is you just have to be honest and hone your skill and how you apply that skill. And then there’s of course trust where he knows that there’s anything that myself or the rest of the coaches will contribute to him is always with the idea of getting him better and making him even more special than he already is. So, it all works together as a combination. But the character he has shown – a day to turn around a very tough performance in the last game – and it just showed that he’s got what it takes to succeed at any level,” Sangakkara said.
After a couple of months of non-stop cricket, the tournament has reached the final, and Royals players – chasing history – want to ensure that they step up when it matters most.