IPL 2019, KXIP vs RR: A return-clash under the shadow of 'Mankading'

In the backdrop of the 'Mankading' episode, involving Jos Buttler and R. Ashwin at Jaipur, Rajasthan can be expected to get back hard at the host to avenge the defeat.

Ravichandran Ashwin's act of Mankading Jos Buttler drew a lot of flak.   -  AFP

Jos Buttler needs no reminding of his unfinished business with R. Ashwin on Tuesday when Rajasthan Royals faces Kings XI Punjab.

In the backdrop of the 'Mankading' episode, involving the two cricketers at Jaipur where the teams met in their campaign-opener, Rajasthan can be expected to get back hard at the host to avenge the defeat.

That evening, Buttler was in full flow before the unusual mode of dismissal became the talking-point of the cricketing world. Since then, Ashwin, too, must be waiting to scalp Buttler, without offering an explanation!

Together, Punjab and Rajasthan Royals are worried at the half-way stage of the Indian Premier League, languishing in the bottom-half of the points table.

By comparison, Punjab is better placed but that is far from a consolation. The team has lost the last two encounters, mainly due to the bowlers not getting the act right even when defending fairly tall totals. Worse, a defeat on Tuesday will leave Punjab as the only team to have lost to the seventh and eighth placed teams on the point-table.

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Rajasthan, struggling to perform to its potential, just about managed to cross the line against Mumbai over the weekend. The team, more often than not, has tossed away dominant positions this season. Against Mumbai, it almost repeated the script.

Interestingly, there will also be a battle, within the bigger battle, to see which in-form wicketkeeper opener - K. L. Rahul or Buttler - comes out stronger.

Punjab has reasons to be wary of Rajasthan’s formidable batting. Buttler, Ajinkya Rahane, Steve Smith, Sanju Samson and Ben Stokes are capable of adding to Punjab’s bowling woes.

On the batting front, notwithstanding the form of Rahul, Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal, Punjab’s areas of concern are the non-performance of its middle-order and the absence of a sixth bowling-option. Punjab could get into serious trouble should the top-order fail, for a change.

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Effectively, Rajasthan has the resources to get past Punjab. However, its vulnerability has come to the fore too often. That in turn has kept the opposing teams hopeful till the end.

Toss will again be important as batting second seems to be an integral part of the winning formula here. Should dew come into play, Rajasthan could be seriously tested on this big ground.

Also, like Virat Kohli mentioned on Saturday, if the bowlers manage to bowl dot balls to Gayle, the team’s run-rate falls dramatically. This fact was well illustrated when Royal Challengers Bangalore bowled 44 dot balls to Gayle. This is sure to be part of Rajasthan’s plans, too.