The time left for the IPL 2021 auction is less than a week and the excitement is off the roof. Rajasthan Royals have the second-highest amount in their purse and have a good chance to fix their issues.
Under the leadership of Sanju Samson, the Royals will be one of the most exciting teams to watch out for. After being appointed as the skipper of the team, Samson said,
“It’s an absolute honour to have been announced as the captain of Rajasthan Royals. It’s a team that is so close to my heart, which I’ve been lucky enough to play for over the years, and I’m excited about the challenge that lies ahead of me as the leader of the team.”
Samson’s approach regarding T20 cricket is quite appealing and the presence of the English trio of Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes, as well as the Indian youngsters as Riyan Parag, Tyagi, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Mahipal Lomror and others in the squad, make Rajasthan a very watchable T20 side.
However, just being an “exciting” team isn’t enough, RR – who bagged the wooden spoon in UAE – need better returns.
Issues encountered by RR in IPL 2020:
One of the main issues faced by the Royals, in the last edition of the league, was the lack of support for Jofra Archer in the bowling department. Whilst Rahul Tewatia performed decently, it wasn’t enough for the side. All RR bowlers except Archer and Tewatia averaged over 40 and had an economy of over 8.5.
RR desperately needed a quality pacer who could partner Archer well. While Kartik Tyagi was impressive, his returns weren’t enough. RR’s consistent persistence with Jaydev Unadkat cost them dearly. The likes of Andrew Tye, Tom Curran, Ankit Rajpoot and Varun Aaron also failed to make an impact in their limited opportunities.
Shreyas Gopal had two good seasons with Rajasthan, however, he struggled in IPL 2020. The leg-spinner didn’t have that kind of control and often bowled short lengths. Gopal gave easy runs and his form could be an issue for the Royals yet again.
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Jofra Archer was stupendous in the powerplay. He bowled extremely quick, moved the new-cherry and was aggressive; he was perfect in the powerplay. However, he wasn’t at his best in the death overs. Archer wasn’t poor – he was average – but the performance of other bowlers added misery to RR’s bowling woes.
In overs 17-20, Rajasthan weren’t ‘royals’ with the ball. Among all teams in this phase, their economy (11.96) and average was the highest – yes, even worse than KXIP.
The other issue faced by RR – in the batting department – was regular inconsistency in the batting order. Smith and Co. tried as many as five openers across the season but didn’t have great success. Among openers – grouped by teams – RR were at the bottom in the run-charts tally.
Jos Buttler was demoted in the batting order to accommodate Stokes and Robin Uthappa at the top of the order. Whilst promoting Stokes was a positive sign, the same can’t be said about Buttler’s demotion. Also, RR could have used Riyan Parag more efficiently. That being said, RR are likely to enjoy a good batting unit in the upcoming season as they have released Smith.
Players Released by Rajasthan Royals ahead of IPL 2021 Auction:
Steven Smith, Ankit Rajpoot, Oshane Thomas, Akash Singh, Varun Aaron, Tom Curran, Anirudha Joshi and Shashank Singh.
Players Retained by Rajasthan Royals ahead of IPL 2021 Auction:
Sanju Samson (C), Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler, Riyan Parag, Shreyas Gopal, Rahul Tewatia, Mahipal Lomror, Kartik Tyagi, Andrew Tye, Jaydev Unadkat, Mayank Markande, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Anuj Rawat, David Miller and Manan Vohra.
IPL 2021 Auction Purse: 37.85 Crores INR (after trades)
Slots to fill: 9 (including three overseas)
What should be Rajasthan Royals’ strategy in the IPL 2021 Auction?
Rajasthan should focus on buying a quality overseas pacer to partner Archer. As already mentioned, the lack of support to their premier pacer led to their poor run in the league. Thus, a good pacer should help them. Also, it will give some relief to Kartik Tyagi. RR would be better served if they use the youngster in not-so-tough situations.
Royals would also want a good Indian spinner, preferably, someone who can turn the ball away from LHBs regularly. The form of Gopal isn’t very promising and RR already have three leg-spinners in their squad, so an off-spinner should help them.
The batting unit of Rajasthan is very good, and not many tweaks are needed. However, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson (despite his improvement) might struggle against leg-spin at times. Thus, a batsman capable of taking on leg-spinners in the middle-overs would be better.
Potential targets for each slot:
1. Chris Morris:
Despite setting a base price of just 75 Lakh, Chris Morris is expected to be among hot picks in the auction. Acquiring Morris should be RR’s top priority and they do have enough purse for that. The South African bowler is among better T20 pacers at the moment, and if fit, he can be an excellent addition to Rajasthan’s bowling attack.
In the IPL 2020, he moved the new-ball and bowled with fine control. Combine his death-bowling skills with impressive new-ball performances, the 33-year-old can be a perfect fit for the Royals. The right-handed batsman also adds batting depth. However, he hasn’t played any cricket since the previous IPL and would hope to be back in action soon.
The other options are Jhye Richardson and Mark Wood.
2. Jalaj Saxena:
If RR go for an Indian off-spinner, Jalaj Saxena can be a good option for them. Often being hailed for his performance in the first-class cricket, Saxena isn’t a bad option for T20s as well. He has performed well, consistently for Kerala in domestic cricket including the shortest format.
Even though he might not be an attacking option at the IPL level, he adds decent value, especially when used against suitable oppositions. Jalaj has good control on his line & length and is capable of beating batsmen. The pitch at RR’s home venue is also likely to support him.
Jalaj’s batting might not be very suitable for the IPL, however, RR don’t need it, particularly if they recruit Morris. Archer is a good hitter in the lower-order and the rise of Tewatia combined with Riyan’s potential should inspire enough confidence.
The other options are Krishnappa Gowtham and Jagadeesha Suchith (SLA).
3. Sachin Baby:
Sachin Baby can be a decent addition to the Rajasthan Royal’s squad. Whilst they can use Mahipal Lomror as a spin-basher in the middle-overs, Baby isn’t a bad option to have in the squad.
Sachin has performed consistently well in the past few T20 domestic seasons. The southpaw is technically a sound player of spin bowling. Even though he might be limited by quick wrist spin-bowling and well-directed short bowling, Sachin can cash on against other bowlers, given good support from the other end.
The other batting options are Shahrukh Khan (for finishing role), Vishnu Vinod (top-order) and Moeen Ali (squad filler at a low price).