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Rahul’s Royals amazing

- We are on to something special, says Dravid
Rajasthan Royals captain Rahul Dravid celebrates with MoM Pravin Tambe (back to camera) and Dishant Yagnik , in Jaipur, on Friday. (PTI)

Calcutta/Jaipur: Some would say that the Rajasthan Royals are unbeatable in Jaipur, Friday’s 14-run victory over the Chennai Super Kings, in the first semi-final of this edition’s CLT20, being their 13th home triumph on the trot.

But such a proud record perhaps wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for Rahul Dravid’s brilliant captaincy. The 40-year-old former India captain provided ample evidence about that at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.

After the Royals put up 159 for eight in their stipulated 20 overs, one was sure the job of defending that total wouldn’t be easy, given the super batting line-up that the Super Kings had. But Dravid was ready with his plan to unsettle the Mahendra Singh Dhonis.

Amazingly, captain Dravid employed as many as six bowlers in the first seven overs and that never really allowed the Super Kings to concentrate on their chase. If T20 is all about innovation, Dravid showed how it should be done.

Dhoni’s team could manage just 44 runs in the first seven overs while losing the wickets of Michael Hussey and Murali Vijay. They never really gained rhythm thereafter and at one stage were reduced to 72 for seven. In the end, they were left with too much to do, needing 23 off the last over.

Credit to the Super Kings’ Ravichandran Ashwin, who slammed a 28-ball 46, for making it a close match. Without his ‘interference’, the Royals would have been runaway winners.

Dravid also used his 42-year-old leg-spinner, Pravin Tambe, excellently. Tambe ended up being the Man of the Match for his spell of 4-0-10-3.

For those who vouch by expert opinions, note that former players like Sanjay Manjrekar and Ian Bishop, who were doing the commentary, heaped praise on Dravid’s captaincy. That says it all.

The following are excerpts

Rahul Dravid: It was brilliant match… I think we were about 15 runs short… But the way we came back with our bowling and fielding was just sensational.

It is incredible to be part of the Royals’ dressing room. We know we are on to something special… What we have done so far is really special. I don’t think anyone would have believed when we started off that we would do so well right throughout the IPL and then again in the CLT20. The Royals is a fun place to be. Everyone is getting involved and everyone is contributing. And we are getting some great performances from people who are least expected to deliver those.

Talking about Tambe’s performance, it goes down to the numbers of hours he has put in... He has bowled in all sorts of cricket for about two decades now. He has great control and he is willing to learn. Moreover, he has worked on the inputs given by players like Shane Watson and Brad Hodge during the practice session. He has soaked them in and the results are showing. We always knew he had the skills. But to show the skills against explosive batsmen at this level requires temperament and mental strength. And he has shown that he has got them.

It doesn’t matter who we face in the final, it is going to be a tough game anyway. We are focused on what we have to do. This was probably my last match in Jaipur and the journey over the last three years has been super. I have received so much support here and to end with 13 wins on the trot is great.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni: We should have done better… Our bowlers did a fantastic job, restricting them to 150-odd runs. At one stage, we thought we might chase something around 175. But our batting let us down. We gifted two run outs. And after that, there were two instances where the individuals strayed from the role and the responsibility they have in the side. It also led to our downfall. We lost four of our top order wickets in a silly manner and it always is difficult for the lower order to finish off things. I think the lower order batted really well under pressure. Ashwin batted brilliantly and was well supported by Chris Morris. Suresh Raina also batted well up the order.

It always hurts to lose a match… But, I don’t want to take anything away from the Royals. They batted well and then later bowled in the right areas. They were the better team. But we were not done in on the basis of skills... We made far more mistakes than them, and in the knock-out stage you can’t afford them.

Pravin Tambe (MoM): I am very happy that we have won and our team are in the final. I want to thank Rahulbhai and my coaches for believing in me and giving me the chance to play for the team. I don’t know why batsmen are not being able to pick my bowling… I just try and stick to my basics and maintain my line and length.