Rajasthan Royals were the champions of the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) but they haven’t played like a champion side in the 12 seasons that have followed. After their triumph under the shrewd Shane Warne, the Royals were regularly among the bottom three for the following four seasons (2009-12). They qualified for the playoffs in the next two out of three seasons (2013-15) and were pretty decent.
However, since their comeback in 2018, Rajasthan have been ordinary again. After a fourth-position qualification in 2018, RR were No. 7 in the points table in 2019 and bagged their first-ever wooden spoon in IPL 2020.
Despite their poor performances in the past two seasons and having a similar core, RR are the most exciting side in the upcoming IPL 2021 season. Their good work in the mega auction before IPL 2018, along with good buys in the last auction, makes them a very strong side on paper.
Rajasthan Royals have one of the Best set of overseas players
There is no match to Rajasthan’s first-choice overseas players — Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Chris Morris — in the competition.
Butler and Stokes, who opened for the Royals in a few games in 2020, might open throughout the season this time around. The English opening pair is potentially the best in the league, given that David Warner and Jonny Bairstow are unlikely to open together.
Apart from their world-class skills, their strong temperament puts them a level above others. England’s volatile batting line-up has also contributed to their improvement. Stokes and Buttler stood tall for their team in the World Cup 2019 final, and there have been several other occasions as well – even in Test cricket.
At the top of the order, Buttler and Stokes can utilise the powerplay restrictions. Both are excellent players of pace-bowling and have classical powerplay strokes in their repertoire. Butter is also capable of playing orthodox shots even at the beginning of his innings. Unless teams decide to bowl a few overs of leg-spinners in the powerplay, the duo is unlikely to face many problems on standard T20 decks.
Jofra Archer is currently one of the best and quickest bowlers in the world cricket. The Most Valuable Player of IPL 2020 produced an excellent powerplay performance in the last season – one of the best in IPL history.
There have been 365 instances of a bowler bowling at least 100 balls in the powerplay in a single IPL season, and @JofraArcher (2020) tops the bowling average, economy and dot-ball % charts.
— Stat Doctor🩺 (@stat_doctor) April 4, 2021
Archer was quick and consistent with his lines and lengths. Bowling mostly in the channel, he kept nailing on good-length and short-length. The movement of the ball off the deck was his major strength, apart from his pace and accuracy.
The English spearhead was also great in the middle-overs. However, his performance was pretty average in the death overs. He possesses the required skillset for death overs as well, though. So RR would hope he comes good in this phase as well.
Archer, however, won’t be available for the first few games in IPL 2021. But the Royals have no reason to worry as they have a good attack-leader ready in Chris Morris.
Morris also displayed good bowling skills in the last season. He didn’t play all games but his impact on RCB was there for all to see. Often known for his skills in the second half of the innings, South African moved the new ball as well. Apart from his class bowling, Morris (along with Archer) also provides valuable batting depth – without compromising on the bowling quality.
The youth and the ‘exciting’ middle-overs:
Rajasthan Royals have plenty of young Indian players and in variety. They have an opener in Yashaswi Jaiswal, a middle-order batsman in Riyan Parag, a spin-bowling all-rounder in Mahipal Lomror, a wicket-keeper batsman in Anuj Rawat, an express-quick in Kartik Tyagi, powerplay pacers in Chetan Sakariya & Akash Singh, and a leg-spinner in Mayank Markande.
It will be interesting to see if they are shrewd regarding Riyan’s role. With a good base against pace and spin, the 19-year-old has a huge potential to become an excellent middle-order batsman.
Despite his unimpressive numbers in IPL 2020, Kartik Tyagi was mighty impressive. The right-arm quick can bowl good bouncers and nail yorkers. If he is fit to play this season, Kartik is capable of providing good support to Archer and Morris.
The last time AB tried to smash a pacer at the death and couldn't was Bumrah last season. Of course, this version of Tyagi can't be expected to deliver game in, game out considering how simple his skillset is and how young he is. But when he does!
— Alagappan Vijayakumar (@IndianMourinho) October 20, 2020
Despite his poor numbers in the IPL, Mahipal seems to be a good spin power-hitter. The powerful southpaw might be useful in whacking left-arm orthodox spinners & leggies and boost the run rate in middle overs. His left-arm orthodox spin might be also useful if used well.
Since Archer is set to miss some games, RR would need a good powerplay pacer. Chetan Sakariya, a left-arm medium-pacer, is a good option for the same. Sakariya, who worked with Glenn McGrath, is a swing bowler and might do some damage with the new nut.
Akash is also a left-arm swing pacer, however, Sakariya seems to be ahead in the race at the moment.
Mayank Markande – who was pretty good in his first IPL season – also might get chances, in case Shreyas Gopal continues his bad form.
The Royals have 10 out of their 14 matches in Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru. If the pitches don’t deteriorate, RR’s batting line-up will be very exciting to watch in those games. Sanju Samson’s intent is elite and if the likes of Riyan Parag, Shivam Dube and Mahipal Lomror come good, it would be great for RR.
Riyan, Shivam and Lomror might not seem great names on paper, however, their returns majorly depend on their role. Samson vs off-spin and Lomror & Shivam vs leg-spin and Slow left-arm spin – with good intent – would do the job. Samson and Riyan are also quality players of pace-bowling as well.
Sanju Samson – the new Rajasthan Royals skipper!
The Royals selected Samson for the captaincy role despite the presence of international seniors like Stokes, Buttler and Archer. The investment in the Indian youngsters is an excellent step taken by the franchise.
Samson has spoken about his inconsistency and intent on quite a few occasions. He has openly admitted that he would compromise on the consistency front to become a match-winner in T20s. The mindset is quite refreshing and all those statements, despite not being a mainstay in the Indian XI, make it even more amazing.
ALSO READ: Excited for the challenge – Sanju Samson
Samson also captained Kerala in the recent domestic white-ball tournaments. Kerala played a very attacking brand of cricket under him, particularly in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s. The Royals fans would hope that Samson successfully instils the same mentality in RR as well.
We love drawing parallel comparisons. So, here is one: Rohit Sharma, an Indian elegant batsman, replaced Ricky Ponting, an Australian skipper, and went on to become the most successful IPL skipper and a beast in the white-ball cricket. Guess, who replaced whom in the Rajasthan Royals camp?
As exciting as RR seem to be, they have quite a few problems — powerplay bowling without Archer, the leg-spinner conundrum, lack of quality overseas back-ups and being top-heavy if Stokes-Buttler open. However, the positive mindset, spot-on planning and the right execution would help the Royals in going a long way. They just need to ensure that they are alive in the tournament until Archer joins them.