Now that India's selection for the T20 World Cup is done, at least that will not be a distraction any longer and I can now devote all my focus and energies towards the IPL. I will confess that it was very disappointing to not be selected. Playing for India and playing in the World Cup is a great dream for all players and I was very much looking forward to that.
As the cliché goes, selection is not in a player's control, so it is very important to stay focused on what you can control and where you are as a player. You need to have that maturity in your thinking.
We are resuming the tournament after a four-month break, so it feels like a new season. The mood in the Rajasthan Royals camp is like we are starting another IPL. We also have had a few changes in our squad. So that too makes it feel like a new tournament for us. Overall it is good to come in with that mindset regardless of what happened in the first phase.
The break has also allowed us to not just recoup our energies but also review our ideas and strategy going into the second half. The key points me and Sanga have spoken about are mainly about the roles individuals can play and about the combinations.
Playing this format, one has to understand the margin of error is very small. You can't really blame your players or your team. The only things you can take care of are the mindset you go in with and the intent and attitude the players display in the games.
I am aware that one of the areas that the Royals have been inconsistent in is the middle order, and the numbers will say as much. So we can't deny that is a weakness.
To score quickly in that phase, you need to have your best batters around. That doesn't mean I'm saying that I want to drop anchor at one end. In T20 you have to show intent every ball and play your shots, and not think that you can sit back, play it safe in the powerplay and then score in the middle overs. You have to take good decisions as a batter to play a lot of overs, but equally, not miss scoring opportunities.
Luckily, if I am not wrong - and you can look up the numbers - Royals have finished powerfully in the death overs with the bat. So if you have enough wickets in hand or your best batters around, you will more often than not come up with a powerful finish.
Keeping that in mind, I am very happy and excited that we once again have got Liam Livingstone, who has been hammering bowling attacks off late. We have seen glimpses of his attacking strokeplay for Royals before but this time we would like to give him more opportunities, give him the freedom to express himself, without assigning him a specific role. For him and other batters, we want to keep options open. We'll have chats with the players and figure what kind of role they want, and then the final call will be taken by the team management.
One other potential weak area people from outside point at is our death bowling. The stats will say we are nowhere near the best, but I am not bothered by that. If you are only conceding ten or 11 runs in each of the final four overs, it is actually not a very bad run rate at the death.
Last year in the UAE we finished eighth. So any improvement would be good. But in my first huddle with the Royals family this year I made it clear that while the goal is to win the championship, we need to focus on our process, on our preparation, and take it one match at a time. We give everything out there. I don't mind if we end up at No. 8 again, but I want everyone to go all out. No matter who the opposition is, I want to see that attitude in your eyes and your body language. We are going for the kill - die or win. As simple as that. No one is holding back. I said that I wanted that commitment from each and every one.
We are a young IPL team and the brand of cricket I want my team now to play is to fight and succeed. Of our remaining seven matches this season we have to win as many as possible. The goal is not to qualify for the playoffs but to win the championship.