Core of the Squad
Last season, many of the current Rajasthan players were part of the Rising Pune Supergiant team and therefore, getting along with each other won't be an issue. The likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Jaydev Unadkat, Ben Stokes and Rahul Tripathi lit up the league last season as RPS entered the final of the tournament. This time, Rahane will be leading the side while Unadkat — who is the most expensive Indian in the history of the auction — will be the pace spearhead of the Royals. Meanwhile, the all-round abilities of Ben Stokes will be one to watch out for. The franchise will hope these top will be able to replicate the performances of last season as well.
The Rajasthan think-tank used their cash purse well and brought some explosive foreigners in the auction. Ben Stokes is a proven household name worldwide and he played a more than instrumental role with both bat and ball as RPS entered the final last time around. Australian star D’Arcy Short is an opening batsman who is the leading run-scorer in T20s this year and that says it all about his credentials in the shortest format of the game. Englishman Jos Buttler is an explosive batting option and he has scored 527 runs in IPL at a strike rate of 145.98 in 24 innings. Jofra Archer has made a name for himself in T20 leagues around the globe while Ben Laughlin is a more than capable fast-bowling option.
Absence of Steve Smith
The Royals suffered a big blow ahead of the start of the league as skipper Steve Smith — who was their only retained player — was banned for this season. Last season, Smith marshalled his troops well and guided them into the final of the competition, where they lost the match on the last delivery of the innings. His experience of playing at the top level, his batting and more than anything his leadership qualities will be sorely missed by the team.
Rajasthan missed a trick in the auction as they failed to improve their bench strength and that could cause problem once we enter the business end of the competition. They have just four spinners in their team, of which only two tweakers (Shreyas Gopal and Ankit Sharma) have any IPL experience. The likes of Midhun S and Zahir Khan are newcomers in the tournament. Meanwhile, middle-order batsman Aryaman Birla has played only one first class game in his career, while wicket-keeper Prashant Chopra, spinner Midhun S and all-rounder Mahipal Lomror haven’t played in the IPL altogether.
For the second year in a row, English superstar Ben Stokes was the most expensive buy in the IPL auction. Rajasthan shelled out an eye-watering sum of Rs 12.50 Cr to acquire his services and the all-rounder himself would say that he is worth it. Last season, while playing for Pune, Stokes scored 316 runs in 12 matches and he also scalped 12 wickets to become one of the top players of the cash-rich league. Stokes lit up the league with his batting performance where he scored one century and one fifty during the course of the season and kept chipping away with wickets whenever called upon by his skipper. If Stokes manages to bring that sort of performance into this year, expect Royals to go far into the tournament.
The big names in the Rajasthan team may be enough to propel them into the top four of the competition, however, the lack of squad depth may come back to haunt them and their aspirations of lifting the cup come May 27.
First Published: April 7, 2018, 11:15 AM IST