Shreyas Gopal starred for Rajasthan Royals on his return to the side as the Royals beat Royal Challengers Bangalore by 30 runs at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Saturday.
Gopal, who was born and brought up in Karnataka, picked up 4/16 from his four overs to knock Bangalore out of this year’s Indian Premier League.
The 24-year-old replaced Anureet Singh in the playing XI and came in to bowl in the 6th over, right after the strategic time-out and bowled a quiet over as AB de Villiers and Parthiv Patel looked to accelerate in their chase of 165 to stay alive in the tournament. Gopal struck in his second over to remove Parthiv and dealt the first blow. He bowled a flat delivery around off, which skidded away and stayed low. Parthiv got back to cut but missed and lost his balance a bit in the process. Heinrich Klaasen did well to collect the ball and take the bails off in a flash. Parthiv’s wicket set the tone for Rajasthan to make a comeback into the game.
The wily leg-spinner continued to bowl great line and length and was rewarded. He removed Moeen Ali in the same over when the Englishman hit one back straight back to him. Gopal bowled a flighted ball around leg, Moeen drew forward and tried to work across the line but ended up chipping a straightforward catch back to the bowler. Gopal leapt to his left and caught the ball easily to turn the tide in RR’s favour.
Gopal’s next victim was Mandeep Singh. The Punjab batsman stepped out to the leg-spinner, which landed outside off and kept leaving him as he attempted to loft it over covers. Mandeep missed the ball completely and Klaasen flicked the fails off with ease.
But, the best was yet to come. He got rid of the man, who was keeping RCB in the game — AB de Villiers. Gopal served a googly which was not picked by the South African. He got forward with a big stride and tried to whip it across the line but he failed to put bat to ball and Klaasen was lightning quick to dislodge the bails. This was his fourth and final wicket and he ended with 4/16 to leave Bangalore reeling at 98/6 and turn the game on its head.
And the Karnataka boy was very happy to have De Villiers’ number for the second time this season.
“You can never have a set plan for someone like ABD. It was good having his wicket for the second time,” said a jubilant Gopal.
Speaking about his plan in the game, he said: “There was a little bit of spin. I kept it at the wickets and relied on my googly and flipper as much as I could.”
He also said that he is happy to be sharing a good rapport with New Zealand leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, who was brought in by Rajasthan Royals as a replacement for Zahir Khan.
“We are like brothers now. I keep picking his brains. He is wonderful with the way he puts in an effort with every ball that he bowls. There are a lot of things that I can learn from him,” said the 24-year-old.
Gopal, who was picked up for his base price of Rs 20 lakh in the auction, now has taken 10 wickets from 10 matches and once again will be a key cog in RR’s wheel if they move into the play-offs. He had earlier played for the Mumbai Indians and also won two titles with them but was not picked up this time around.
He was coming at the back off a decent Ranji Trophy season as well, where he hit 383 runs from seven matches, including one hundred and two fifties. Gopal also picked up 23 wickets from 7 matches with a best of 5/17. With wrist-spinners being the flavour of the season and a decent season with Karnataka in the domestic circuit, the lack of interest in Gopal was surprising but the man delivered when he matterd the most for his franchise.
Gopal was aided by another Karnataka player as RR sunk RCB’s ship on Saturday. Krishnappa Gowtham’s cameo towards the end of the match gave momentum to the Rajasthan going into the break. He came and slammed 14 off 5 balls to help RR post 164/5 from their 20 overs.
He was also economical with the ball and got the all important wicket of Virat Kohli in the third over to land the first blow. The 29-year-old returned with figures of 1/6 from his two overs on Saturday apart from hitting two lusty blows in the final over.
This had been a trademark of Gowtham throughout the season. He has come out with the bat towards the end and hit some big blows to aid Rajasthan put some decent total on the board. He has more often than not followed it up with some economical spells with the ball as well while opening the bowling.
The Karnataka boys will again play a key role if they indeed manage to go through to the next stage as the play-offs and Qualifier 2 will be played in Kolkata and the pitch will suit them nicely. Although it’s not a spinners paradise anymore, the two will look to replicate their form from the season.