Rajasthan Royals will again start another IPL season hoping to replicate their triumph during the first season of the tournament. In the UAE in 2020, the Royals started promisingly, with one of the most dramatic victories against the erstwhile Kings XI Punjab. But as the tournament progressed, they became more and more inconsistent and finished at the bottom of the league for the first time.
Changes in squad
Rajasthan have made a few changes in their squad during the auction hoping to get the right combination. They let go of Steven Smith, their captain for the most part of the last two years, and Robin Uthappa.
On the other hand, they made quite a few eye-catching purchases. The biggest of them was of Chris Morris, for a record-breaking 16.25 crores. Morris was joined by Liam Livingstone, Mustafizur Rahman, and Shivam Dube, among others.
The Royals have also identified wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson as captain. This will be Samson’s first stint as IPL captain. However, he led Kerala in the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He has been playing for Rajasthan since 2013, and hence will not have any issue with familiarity. He had finished last season as Rajasthan’s highest run-scorer with 375 runs. This will be beneficial for Samson if he can keep leading by example.
New captain, injury concerns, dependencies
Samson will have support from experienced players like Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Jaydev Unadkat, who all can chip in with suggestions. But he will miss Jofra Archer, who won the MVP Award last season. He was Rajasthan’s go-to bowler and delivered in almost all situations.
Archer will miss at least the first six matches of this IPL due to a hand injury. The Royals management will hope that Archer can be back for the later stages of the tournament.
They will back Morris to replicate Archer’s role as the spearhead of the attack. Morris missed a part of the last IPL due to an injury, but still finished with 11 wickets from 9 matches for Royal Challengers Bangalore. The Royals will hope that Morris can deliver at least at that level to justify his hefty price tag. However, Morris’s injury remains a concern.
However, apart from Archer and Morris (and Stokes), Rajasthan does have two superb seam bowlers. Mustafizur and Andrew Tye have both left an imprint in the IPL. They will be accompanied by the experienced Unadkat and young tearaway, Kartik Tyagi. Tyagi will especially be under focus after an excellent debut season, especially after being part of India’s memorable tour of Australia as a net bowler.
As for batting, a Buttler-Stokes opening combination is possible, although Rajasthan have options in young Livingstone and Yashasvi Jaiswal. Strokes, who missed some part of last year’s IPL due to his father’s illness, will also double as a dependable seam option.
Dube will be expected to play the finisher’s role along with Riyan Parag and Rahul Tewatia. Tewatia’s redemption story was one of the talking points from the year’s IPL as he proved his worth in both departments to elevate himself from a fringe player to a member of a national squad in a few months.
Overall, the Royals outfit looks stronger compared to last year. They will hope that their key players remain fit and available for the entire season. A few key performances at the right moment can take Rajasthan Royals to their first Playoffs since 2018.
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