Winners of the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League, the Rajasthan Royals made a huge announcement ahead of the auctions as they released Steve Smith and appointed Sanju Samson as the skipper. Also, they released a bunch of fast bowlers, both Indian and overseas, and went into the auctions looking to get in some decent fast bowlers and ended up buying Chris Morris at the highest price ever (16.25 cr) in IPL. Apart from having a clear vision of what they need, having a huge purse left gave them the luxury to spend big
Here we look at how the squad shapes up for the upcoming season:
Sanju Samson (c&wk), Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Manan Vohra, Anuj Rawat, Riyan Parag, David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, Mahipal Lomror, Shreyas Gopal, Mayank Markande, Jofra Archer, Andrew Tye, Jaydev Unadkat, Kartik Tyagi, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Mustafizur Rahman, Chetan Sakariya, KC Cariappa, Liam Livingstone, Kuldip Yadav, Akash Singh
Strengths and Weaknesses:
The RR batting line-up holds an almost identical look as last season, with just Smith and Uthappa not there. The newly appointed skipper Samson is likely to open with either Stokes or Buttler, or might bat at 3, promoting one of Jaiswal or Vohra to open. The top 4 comprising of Jaiswal, Buttler, Samson and Stokes and holds a potent and dynamic look. Stokes was a game-changer at the top last season and the management should look to continue with the strategy to get the best out of the English all-rounder. Following them will be last season’s match-winner Rahul Tewatia, who can also play as a floater.
The lower middle order also has a plethora of quality options in Parag, Lomror, Dube, Tewatia and Morris. With Dube coming in, there will be added firepower in the lower middle order and he is likely to share the responsibility of finishing along with Parag and Tewatia. They also have the options of using Miller or Livingstone too, in case they decide to go batting heavy. The top 7 also provide a minimum of six to eight overs every game, which adds a lot of balance to the squad.
Shreyas Gopal is likely to spearhead the spin department, with support from Tewatia and Lomror. Though the attack does not hold a deadly look like some other teams, the duo of Gopal and Tewatia is quite potent to excel against any opposition, as evident from last season. They have drafted in KC Cariappa as the backup. However, the area where they lag is the presence of an off-spinner in the squad. They had the gap while going into the auctions but did not make any buys which can plug the gap. Teams with multiple left-handers might look to exploit the weakness and that is where the major weakness of the side lies.
The pace department looks stronger than before, especially with Morris and Mustafizzur coming in. Both are very good death bowlers and unlike last season, Archer will finally get some support in death overs. Morris is likely to start provided his batting prowess, but having someone like Mustafizzur as a backup is not a luxury that every team has.
Among the Indian pacers, Kartik Tyagi was very impressive last season and is likely to walk into the first choice XI. They have got the youngsters Kuldip Yadav, Akash Singh and Chetan Sakariya, who have caught the attention in domestic cricket, as backups. The pace department looks very potent with a lot of variety and a good blend of youth and experience.
The new skipper will have a task in hand to get the bets out of his players and more importantly, getting the combination right as early as possible. With multiple options with good quality available for each slot, it will be crucial for the think-tank to utilise the resources to the fullest while making sure they do not indulge in too much chopping and changing.
Overall, the squad looks much stronger as compared to last season, with almost all bases covered and more than decent options as the backups. The balance of the squad and the depth in batting as well as bowling in the playing XI gives this side a dangerous look. The dark horses for the season, Rajasthan will look to break into the top 4 after a forgettable season in 2020.
Probable first choice playing XI: Ben Stokes, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson (wk), Jos Buttler, Mahipal Lomror/ Shivam Dube, Rahul Tewatia, Riyan Parag, Chris Morris, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Kartik Tyagi