As the league stage of the Tata IPL 2023 has finally come to an end, the defending champions Gujarat Titans have continued their domination in the Points Table, having finished the league in the top spot. They will meet the Chennai Super Kings on 23rd May 2023 for the first playoff at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. The other two teams that have qualified for the playoffs are the Lucknow Super Giants (Rank 3), and the Mumbai Indians (Rank 4).
However, there was another team that was in contention for a playoff spot up until the final few days of the IPL but missed out by a sheer inch; the Sanju Samson-led Rajasthan Royals. Rajasthan Royals started off on a high note and were also the table toppers for a while, but somehow lost their momentum in the last three weeks. At one poi, Rajasthan Royals looked so strong that they were the favorites to play the IPL. But, as the season continued, the team trailed off and missed out on a well-deserving playoff spot.
Middle Order Woes: The Achilles’ Heel of Rajasthan Royals
Among all things that didn’t work out for the team was the inconsistency of the middle order. While the openers (Yashasvi Jaiswal and Jos Buttler), as well as the finishers (Shimron Hetmyer and Dhruv Jurel), were sorted for the franchise, the middle order seemed to be stuck in a slump. The team tried several names including Devdutt Padikkal, Riyan Parag, Joe Root, etc, and even the skipper Sanju Samson shifted himself in the middle order for a few games, but none of them provided a strong solution to RR’s woes.
Rajasthan had acquired the former RCB opener Devdutt Padikkal at the IPL 2022 auction for a whopping price of Rs. 7.75 crores after a successful couple of seasons with the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Even after a mediocre 2022 season, the team had decided to stick with the left-hander in hopes that he would pay dividends this season. However, the team management inculcated a strong change this season, by playing Devdutt Padikkal in the middle order and replacing him with Yashasvi Jaiswal at the top.
The Curious Case of Devdutt Padikkal: Misplacement in the Batting Order
Jaiswal did an impressive job by scoring more than 600 runs this season and emerged as one of the top scorers in the season. On the other hand, Padikkal seemed rather uncomfortable with his new role in the middle order. Padikkal, who has played most of his cricket as an opener, struggled to find his form and could not deliver on most occasions for the franchise.
There was a simple solution to the problem that didn’t quite catch the attention of the Rajasthan Royals team management. The team management had opted for the skipper Sanju Samson to bat at 3, and he did a decent job in that position as he scored 237 runs in 9 games at an average of just around 30. However, what the team management missed was that Devdutt Padikkal was doing a far better job at that position in the limited chances he got.
In just 4 innings that he batted at number 3 for the franchise, Padikkal scored 167 runs at an average of 41.75, coupled with a strike rate of 145.21. Samson is a versatile player and he did a subtle job at the Number 4 and 5 positions as well, scoring 126 runs in 5 outings during the season. However, if we push Devdutt Padikkal into those positions, the numbers drop significantly.
Padikkal batted at number 4 or below seven times this season, scoring just 94 runs at an average of 15.66 at a disappointing strike rate of just 110.58. Had the team not experimented with the batting order so much, both Samson and Padikkal would have found their calling and we could have seen Rajasthan Royals in the playoffs list instead of Lucknow Super Giants or Mumbai Indians.
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