They won the inaugural season of the IPL back in 2008 and though they haven't quite been able to replicate the feat, Rajasthan have been quietly consistent each year, reaching the play-offs on three other occasions. Like Chennai Super Kings, they returned to the IPL after a two-year suspension last year and led by Ajinkya Rahane finished fourth, this despite their premier player Steve Smith missing.
Smith is back into the side after serving out his one-year ban and that is bound to bolster the batting unit which already has the likes of Rahane, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler. The bowling unit also looks potent with Jaydev Unadkat, Jofra Archer and Dhawal Kulkarni in the mix.
Rajasthan will commence their campaign against Kings XI Punjab, on March 25 at their home ground of Sawai Mansingh Stadium, in Jaipur.
Rajasthan have a plethora of match-winners that can bring the roof down on their night. The flamboyant approach of players like Stokes, Buttler, Sanju Samson mixes perfectly with the harmonious nature of Rahane and Smith who act as a perfect foil to these hard-hitters. Rahul Tripathi shone right through the tournament last year while Ashton Turner, who announced himself during the recently-concluded ODI series against India is bound to add more depth to the batting.
While Rajasthan largely have most areas covered, one department that might haunt them is lack of a world-class spinner in their ranks. The Karnataka duo of K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal are the options along with Ish Sodhi and all three have been proven performers at various levels but their potential will be tested to the hilt on surfaces which are extremely batting-friendly. Smith had earlier said that he worked on his bowling during the one-year ban and his leg-breaks might be required in case one of the other spinners have an off day.
Another area which Rajasthan might suffer in the latter stages of the tournament is players leaving for various World Cup camps. Jofra Archer, Stokes, Smith, Turner, Buttler are all very much an integral part of their respective countries and are likely to leave during the fag end of the tournament.
Play-offs: 2013, 2015, 2018
After surprising everyone by winning the title in the introductory edition, Rajasthan have only managed to reach the playoffs thrice. They came back last year after a two-year ban and finished fourth on the table. With a solid team at their disposal, Rahane and his men will certainly want to go all the way and replicate what Warne and his troops attained in 2008.
2019 AUCTION ACTION
Rajasthan did away with the services of D’Arcy Short, Ben Laughlin, Heinrich Klaasen and Dane Paterson and bought nine new players. The most lucrative deal was bagged by Unadkat who was snapped up for a whopping INR 8.4 Cr. Like each year, Rajasthan's focus this time around as well was on local India talents such as Shashank Singh, Riyan Parag and Manan Vohra. Varun Aaron, Oshane Thomas, Ashton Turner and Liam Livingstone were some of the other buys made by them.
WORLD CUP EFFECT
Rajasthan will probably be one of the worst-hit teams by the World Cup preparations of various nations. The likes of Archer, Stokes, Smith, Turner, Buttler are all very much in the World Cup scheme of things for their respective nations and will have to leave the tournament early, in all likelihood. How Rajasthan cope with such stalwarts leaving will have to be seen.
Ajinkya Rahane (c), K Gowtham, Sanju Samson, Manan Vohra, Shreyas Gopal, Aryaman Birla, S. Midhun, Prashant Chopra, Stuart Binny, Rahul Tripathi, Ben Stokes, Steve Smith, Jos Buttler, Ashton Turner, Liam Livingstone, Jofra Archer, Jaydev Unadkat, Varun Aaron, Oshane Thomas, Ish Sodhi, Dhawal Kulkarni, Mahipal Lomror, Shashank Singh, Riyan Parag, Shubham Ranjane.
First Published: March 20, 2019, 8:10 AM IST