Since the inaugural IPL season Rajasthan Royals (RR) has always been very selective while picking their players.
Everybody, me included, didn’t gave them a chance during the first season but they proved everybody wrong and went on to win the IPL.
A lot of credit should go to their former captain Shane Warne who backed every player he chose and got the best out of them. He showed them how to play as a unit and that mindset still runs in the team.
But the journey has not been that good since then as they were knocked out from the group stages in the next four seasons though they did qualify for the play-offs last year.
Rajasthan Royals are similar to team which played in the last edition as they retained five players - Sanju Samson, Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson, James Faulkner and Stuart Binny for the seventh season of the IPL.
They also bought back the veteran Brad Hodge and spin sensation of last year Pravin Tambe during the auction. So, in a way, the core of their team is still intact and will be more settled as compared to other teams.
The main change for Rajasthan is that Watson will lead the team this season as Rahul Dravid retired from the IPL last season though he will be associated with the team as a mentor. Their batting looks quite settled but probably lacks firepower. Young batsman Samson was the find of the last season and the team will expect him to do well this time too.
Steve Smith is again a good buy as he can provide stability in the middle and bowl leg-spin too. Binny has been very good for Rajasthan and a good all-rounder to have in the team along with Rajat Bhatia.
James Faulkner and Kevon Cooper can play the roles of power-hitters coming in lower down the order. Not to forget former India’s U-19 captain Unmukt Chand who is a talented batsman but yet to do justice to his talent.
Ben Cutting and Kane Richardson are some exciting bowling prospects but they lack experience of bowling in sub-continent conditions.
On the other hand Watson, Faulkner, Cooper and Tim Southee are experienced bowlers at International level which is a huge advantage for Rajasthan. In the spin department Tambe and left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla will be Rajasthan’s choice and both are quality bowlers.
Dhawal Kulkarni, the former Mumbai Indians medium-pace bowler will certainly make the playing XI and we might see him as a first change bowler. The role of Watson as a bowler is as important as his batting; he provides the team the all needed balance.
Like their batting, the bowling department also looks settled but they don’t have genuine match-winners.
This year, the Royals will miss out on home advantage as no matches are scheduled in Jaipur which used to be their happy hunting ground.
This is a team that might not have star players but are fearsome competitors on field. It is hard to tell whether they will qualify for the knockout stages or not but if Watson contributes well with bat and bowl, we can expect some surprises.
© Cricket World 2014