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Rajasthan aim to clinch play-off berth in Parag’s homecoming

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Guwahati, May 14: Riyan Parag, the hottest cricketing property to emerge from India’s north-east, is expected to get a grand welcome from his home fans when Rajasthan Royals try to ensure a safe passage into the IPL play-offs against the ousted Punjab Kings in their penultimate league game on Wednesday.
Placed second in the 10-team table with 16 points, Royals need to ensure one win in their next two ‘home’ games in Guwahati. That will be enough to seal a last four berth.
For the past few years, Guwahati has been Royals’ second home base and it was a strategic move by the franchise having invested a good six years in tapping Parag’s potential.
Panned for being inconsistent on social media platforms, Parag’s homecoming this year is special as his performance of 483 runs at a strike-rate of 153 despite not being an opener is simply outstanding.
A stable core and improvisation as per match situations have already made Parag an India contender for the next T20 series where he is expected to make his international debut.
As and when it happens, Parag will become the first cricketer hailing from the north-eastern part of the country to wear the senior team’s iconic blue jersey.
Parag’s emergence as the cricketing face from the region makes this and the RR’s next match against KKR more significant.
The support for the 22-year-old will be organic and that will also help Sanju Samson and his men against Punjab Kings, which unearthed two T20 gems in Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Sharma but once again failed to fire as a team.
Skipper Shikhar Dhawan’s absence due to injury for the better part of the season made matters worse as his stand-in Sam Curran didn’t exactly look the part.
Samson, on the other hand, has grown in stature as a leader in what is expected to be his best season as a batter.
He already is his team’s top-scorer with 486 runs. The dynamic opening duo of Yashasvi Jaiswal (344 runs) and Jos Buttler (359 runs) have had an average season by their standards but Parag and Samson have ensured that batting remained solid and consistent with he low-scoring game against CSK being an aberration.
RR’s strongest aspect is their bowling unit that has never been taken to the task as such during the whole season.
Sandeep Sharma (Economy Rate 8.07) at the death and Trent Boult (ER 8.38) at the start have executed plans to the ‘T’.
Ravichandran Ashwin has only become sharper as the tournament has progressed and Yuzvendra Chahal can always produce that magic ball against the run of play.
Match starts at 7.30 PM. (PTI)

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