Still in with an outside chance of making it to the play-offs, a bruised Rajasthan Royals will be eyeing nothing less than a victory when they take on an inconsistent Kochi Tuskers Kerala in their crucial IPL match on Sunday.
Rajasthan are currently placed at the fifth position in the team standings with 11 points from 12 games. But to qualify for the play-offs, the Shane Warne-led side first will have to win their remaining two games and hope that some other results go in their favour.
Going into Sunday`s day-night encounter, Rajasthan, however, will be low on confidence having suffered a hat-trick of defeats -- twice against Chennai Super Kings (by eight wickets and 63 runs) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (by nine wickets) in their last games.
But the Jaipur outfit will have to forget their last three games and lift their performance to a new level on Sunday to give them any chance of playing in the next stage of the Twenty20 tournament.
Against Kochi at the Holkar Stadium on Sunday, Rajasthan can take heart from the fact that they defeat the Kerala team comfortably by eight wickets in their previous IPL encounter.
Batting is Rajasthan`s biggest asset in the ongoing IPL but so far it has been inconsistent with big names like Shane Watson, Rahul Dravid and big-hitting Ross Taylor performing in bits and pieces. They badly need the trio to fire in the coming two matches in order to give them any chance in the tournament.
Young Ajinkya Rahane, however, has provided some solidity in the middle but after the initial burst South African all-rounder Johan Botha has gone into a shell.
Rajasthan`s problems were further compounded by their lackluster bowling unit which lacked sting in the absence of a world-class bowler, barring Warne.
With 12 wickets from 11 games, veteran Warne has been Rajasthan`s best bowler in the tournament so far but he lacked quality support from the other end.
Kochi, on the other hand, are virtually out of the play-off race after slumping to a six-wicket defeat against Kings XI Punjab last night.
Kochi have garnered 10 points from 12 games and are presently lying in seventh position in the standings with still two games to go.
Kochi have had a roller-coaster of a ride so far in the tournament. After some impressive wins, they suffered back-to-back defeats against Royal Challengers Bangalore (by nine wickets) and most recently against Kings XI Punjab, which jolted their play-off chances.
Kochi`s batting has been far from impressive despite having big names like Brendon MCCullum, Brad Hodge, Parthiv Patel and Owais Shah.
Captain Mahela Jayawardene has been the lone bright spot in Kochi batting line-up, which was evident from his masterly 52-ball 76-run innings against Kings XI on Friday.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja also seems to struggling after some good performances, adding to Kochi`s problems as his explosive batting comes in handy down the order. Kochi bowling also doesn`t look any more formidable with left-arm seamer R P Singh being a major letdown, although he took four wickets in the last match.
Besides, Jayawardene has also had to deal with temperamental pacer S Sreesanth, who threw tantrums after being dropped from the playing eleven against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Even though Sreesanth was selected in Friday`s match against Kings XI, he did very little to prove his worth giving away 38 runs in 3.5 overs without any success.