The road to the 11th edition of the Indian Premier League playoffs is no child's play, especially taking into consideration that no franchise can be underestimated. The 2018 IPL auctions had given the cricket-obsessed sub-continent a glimpse as to which teams would scrape their way to reach the top four.
Was it the defending champions Mumbai Indians? No. Was it the star-studded Virat Kohli led Royal Challengers Bangalore? No. Or was it the Kings XI Punjab who boasted of one of the fiercest and all-powerful batting line-up? No.
The 11th edition has been nerve-racking, spine-tingling, aggravating and seen some maddening encounters, but of them all, the underdogs, Rajasthan Royals have managed to scrape through the bottom of the barrel to reach the IPL playoffs.
Making a return after two-years, Royals had bought two of the most expensive players this edition, England all-rounder Ben Stokes (12.5 Crore) and Team India pacer Jaydev Unadkat (11.5 Crore), however, their impact, was the least of the 23-man squad.
In the 14 matches the Royals have played so far, they have lost seven matches and have won seven matches as well which sees them finishing the league on the fourth spot. After a poor start to the season, Rajasthan have been on more of a rollercoaster ride, making an incredible return to defy all odds and reach the playoff where MI, DD, KXIP and RCB couldn't.
Rajasthan were responsible for knocking out Royal Challengers Bangalore, dictating that there is only one Royal this season. The Ajinkya Rahane led side will face Kolkata Knight Riders in the first Eliminator at Eden Gardens and the team that wins this encounter, will advance to the second eliminator where they will face the winner of the first qualifier between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings.
Paving the Path for the Royals
Jos Buttler: The English batsman was a late bloomer for Rajasthan this season but by Jove, has this batsman delivered. He single-handedly won matches for Rajasthan with his hard-hitting and smashing performances. In the 13 matches he has played, he has amassed 548 runs and has a highest score of an unbeaten 95. He had scored five half-centuries so far and his performances have been crucial for the Rajasthan Royals. However, Buttler won't be able help out any longer as he has been called for national duty along with Ben Stokes. The rest of the players will have to step up and finish what he started.
Jofra Archer: One of the most exciting picks in the auction, this Windies player has been the complete package. His blistering pace has stunned many a batsman in the tournament so far and in nine matches he has played, he has collected 13 wickets. Archer has been on target and has played an important role for the club sor far. Rajasthan will bank on his raw pace to deliver at the first eliminator when they face KKR.
Sanju Samson: His gritty knocks for Rajasthan has given the franchise a reason to include him in all the 14 matches they have played this season. He has scored 391 runs so far but his inputs have been decisive and essential.
Krishnappa Gowtham: The right amount of aggression that is required on field, this all-rounder has it all. His bowling has complemented his batting fairly well, but he has had some match-winning performances this season. Packed with the right amount of aggression and mentality, Gowtham has dismissed the best of the best batsmen he has come across and has mostly taken the ariel route when he comes onto bat. This all-rounder is one to look out for during the KKR clash.
Ajinkya Rahane's leadership qualities have excelled this season, despite him not playing a major role with the bat, his experience has counted well with the team as he leads them to the Eliminator 1 where they face a Dinesh Karthik led Kolkata Knight Riders in a penultimate clash.
IPL 2018 ELIMINATOR: KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS vs RAJASTHAN ROYALS VENUE, TIMING, SQUADS
DATE: MAY 23
TIMINGS: TOSS - 18.30 PM IST, MATCH - 19.00 PM IST
VENUE: EDEN GARDENS, KOLKATA
Kolkata Knight Riders (From): Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik(w/c), Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill, Javon Searles, Piyush Chawla, Prasidh Krishna, Kuldeep Yadav, Mitchell Johnson, Ishank Jaggi, Vinay Kumar, Apoorv Wankhade, Rinku Singh, Shivam Mavi, Cameron Delport, Tom Curran
Rajasthan Royals (From): D Arcy Short, Jos Buttler(w), Ajinkya Rahane(c), Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Stuart Binny, Jofra Archer, Krishnappa Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni, Rahul Tripathi, Ankit Sharma, Anureet Singh, Ish Sodhi, Prashant Chopra, Sudhesan Midhun, Ben Laughlin, Mahipal Lomror, Aryaman Birla, Jatin Saxena, Dushmantha Chameera, Heinrich Klaasen
Rajasthan Royals road to IPL 2018 Playoffs