Rajasthan Royals have been quietly consistent, but with overseas stars expected to be available for only part of the tournament ahead of the World Cup, they might have trouble finding balance.
Rajasthan Royals profile
Captain: Ajinkya Rahane
Home ground: Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur
Owner: Manoj Badale
Past Results: 2018: Play-offs (4th); 2017: Suspended; 2016: Suspended; 2015: Play-offs (4th); 2014: 5th; 2013: Play-offs (3rd); 2012: 7th; 2011: 6th; 2010: 7th; 2009: 6th; 2008: Champions
IPL titles: 1 (2008)
— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) February 25, 2019
Rajasthan Royals, the winners of the inaugural edition of the IPL, have been a quietly consistent unit over the years. While they have been unable to clinch ultimate glory since that first season, the Royals have been in and around the play-off spots.
Initially, the Royals preferred not to splurge in the player auctions and instead relied on lesser-known talent to punch above their weight. However, they have now changed that narrative, breaking records with their bids for Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat over the last two auctions.
With doubt over the availability of the injured Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane is likely to take up the captaincy mantle once again. India’s Test vice-captain took the Royals to the play-offs in 2018, where they were ousted by the Kolkata Knight Riders. One major reason for the defeat was the absence of stars like Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, who prematurely left the tournament for England duty.
The same problem persists with the Royals again this season, as Buttler, Stokes and even Jofra Archer may leave halfway through the season. Lack of run-curtailing options in their pace battery is another worry, but their spin attack looks solid with the likes of Shreyas Gopal, Ish Sodhi and K Gowtham in their ranks. The onus of leading the batting unit will be on Rahane, with responsibility also on the young shoulders of Sanju Samson, Rahul Tripathi and Manan Vohra.
Royals brought in nine players at the 2019 auction, including re-signing left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat, who again grabbed a lucrative deal. They released big overseas names like D’Arcy Short, Ben Laughlin, Heinrich Klaasen and Dane Paterson.
They focused on getting more domestic talent, signing up youngsters like Shashank Singh, Riyan Parag and Shubham Ranjane. Vohra, who has had a decent career in the IPL so far, will be a valuable addition to the Royals’ top order.
Varun Aaron, Oshane Thomas, Ashton Turner and Liam Livingstone were their other buys.
📢 Announcement 📢
Sawai Mansingh Stadium mein karenge hum apni 💗 kahaani ki shuruaat!
— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) February 19, 2019
Key Indian player: Ajinkya Rahane
While Rahane has been unable to make his mark in white-ball cricket for India, he has been quite successful in the IPL. With 3427 runs in 119 innings, he ranks 11th on the all-time leading run-scorers in the tournament. If he makes consistent contributions at the top of the order, Royals are likely to have a good season this year.
Key overseas player: Jos Buttler
Buttler’s extraordinary run with the bat in the latter stages of the 2018 edition, where he made five straight half-centuries, was key to the Royals making the play-offs. Despite being available for just a part of the tournament, Buttler’s exploits at the top of the order will be crucial.
Ajinkya Rahane, 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.
On paper, the Royals’ predicted playing XI looks formidable. However, their squad depth, or lack thereof, might be a genuine cause of concern, more so after the big names leave in the latter stages of the tournament, and they might struggle to make the play-offs. If, however, they find right XI and unearth the best from lesser-known names, they might stand a chance of a top-four finish.