Yes, Rahul Tewatia bailed them out in one game against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP). Yes, Jofra Archer is smashing sixes. Yet, it feels like the Rajasthan Royals (RR) batting line-up is falling off the cliff after their top three.
There is no doubt that Jos Buttler, Steve Smith and Sanju Samson form a formidable top three. Each one of them are match-winners and they all seem to be in very good form as well. However, what if they fail like they did against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) or Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the last two games?
Rajasthan Royals: The middle-order muddle up
They did stretch to 154 against RCB and there was some promise. They did play well. But it seems RR lack zip when they lose their top three early. The same could be said about a lot of other teams but RR’s batting just falls away after the top three.
And that has been the case over the last couple of years. In fact, since the start of 2018, Rajasthan’s middle-order (positions 4 to 7) have the worst average (17.76) and the second-worst strike-rate (125.53) among all teams. It’s in stark contrast to how their top three plays. RR’s top three average 35.65 and strike at 141.39 in the aforementioned period. The difference in their average and strike-rate between the top and middle-order is the biggest as well.
Moreover, RR’s middle-order (4-7) has registered a mere three half-centuries, the least among all teams since the start of 2018. And out of the three, two have come this season. One was that Tewatia heist and the other was Tom Curran’s 54 towards the end of their chase against KKR when the game was all but lost.
This season, though, has been slightly weird. RR’s top three fired in the first two games and have looked like a million dollars when they played at Sharjah. However, when they moved out of that ground, their slam-bang approach at the top didn’t pay off and they paid the price.
Rajasthan Royals and the Uthappa question
A middle-order of Robin Uthappa, Riyan Parag and Rahul Tewatia doesn’t really inspire much confidence. Yes, Tewatia has got runs and looks a promising prospect. RR need to back him and he can float around in the order.
But Uthappa and Parag have struggled quite a lot. The duo have scored 56 runs put together and those runs have come at a strike-rate of 77.78. In total, the two of them have scored just five boundaries.
Let’s leave Parag alone for a bit. He has been disappointing, but not more than Uthappa, and given his age and promise, perhaps deserves a longer rope.
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The Karnataka-born veteran has looked lethargic as well on the field. He’s dropped easy catches, misfields have been common too. Plus, he isn’t looking the fittest. Mind you he’s just 34 but is looking a lot older on the field. It looks like he’s trying very hard with the bat and it’s just not coming off. And it’s deflating when that happens with a senior player. He just seems to be a big baggage in this RR line-up.
Also, Uthappa is batting horribly out of position. He has batted in the top three for most part of the last decade. Batting 4 and 5, he hasn’t found the tempo nor the timing. In fact, batting 4 or lower, Uthappa’s scores since 2017 have been poor, to say the least – 47 runs in 10 innings at a strike-rate which isn’t even touching 60. The game against RCB where he scored 17 is his highest.
— Deepu Narayanan (@deeputalks) October 3, 2020
How should Rajasthan Royals line-up
So, what is the solution for RR? Who are the ones sitting on the bench? Well, the absence of Ben Stokes hasn’t helped. But his record for RR hasn’t been all that great either. The English all-rounder has scored 319 runs averaging 17.72 and striking at 122.69, which is almost as same as the entire RR middle-order since Stokes joined the side.
One solution could be Smith dropping down to either No. 3 or 4. In fact, when he walked out to open the batting alongside Yashasvi Jaiswal in RR’s first game against Chennai Super Kings (CSK), he stunned the world. Yes, he did well in a couple of games.
However, with Buttler being one of the top T20 openers globally, Smith’s presence at the top doesn’t really add too much value. They can throw the 18-year-old Jaiswal in the mix. He was dropped after just one game where he scored 6. He could replace Uthappa and can be given a longer rope. Jaiswal is a quality player and is only going to get better with experience.
Moreover, there’s Manan Vohra waiting in the wings as well. He could be a handy option. In fact, both Vohra and Jaiswal could come in for the horribly out-of-form Uthappa and Parag. There’s also Mahipal Lomror who impressed in this game who can stay in for Parag.
Also, with Smith pushed down, he can take control of the innings.
Samson seems to have improved his range and power-hitting which means he can slot in at 4 with Smith at 3. The RR skipper is a good player of spin and can control the game. That adds a lot more experience and depth in the middle-order. It gives them a lot more stability as well.
RR will also be delighted by the news of Ben Stokes flying out to the UAE. His inclusion will be a big boost after his quarantine.
So, RR’s batting order could well stack up something like this if Smith decides to drop down to 3. Buttler opening either with Jaiswal or Vohra with Smith and Samson who can move around at 3 and 4. Stokes at 5, when available, followed by Lomror, Parag or Vohra and Tewatia.
While it doesn’t look as bad and may not seem necessary, RR need a change big time. Irrespective of when Stokes is available, the current top three needs to separate for RR’s long-term plans in this tournament. They can’t just have their best batsmen batting in the top three and being down and out every time they are dismissed early. Yes, they say that your best batsmen need to face as many deliveries in T20 cricket, but that’s ideally not at the cost of the balance of your side.