IPL 2018 mid-season analysis - Rajasthan Royals, a day late and a dollar short

Rajasthan Royals, a day late and a dollar short
 

After clinching the first ever IPL title in 2008, Rajasthan Royals have failed to leave a significant mark in the league. Since then, RR have lost their way and have managed to make the Playoffs only twice.

This year, they let go off their conservative strategy and splurged lot of money in the auctions. In the process, they caught hold of two of the world’s best all-rounders in Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer and looked all set to go all guns blazing under the Captaincy of Steve Smith.

However, the Australian ball tampering incident came as a big blow for the side. After Smith was banned from playing in the league, Rajasthan went to their next best option in Ajinkya Rahane.

Although, RR began strong with successive wins, they could not sustain their momentum. With three defeats on a trot, they were pushed to the brink of an IPL ouster. However, the team fought back and defeated Kings XI Punjab by 15 runs in their last game to remain alive in the competition.

Captaincy

There’s no denying the fact that Ajinkya Rahane is a good tactical Captain. He possesses a serene personality and shares a good rapport with his players.

Despite all of this, if there is one flaw in his personality, it’s that he probably lacks aggression. As compared to Steve Smith, he is a bit docile – for the lack of a better word – for a Captain. Rahane lacks the spark that is so essential to lift the team up and dare I say, the same has reflected in the team’s performance.

RR have a group of good players but they have not been able to jell together and perform well as a team. The franchise is also missing their Captain Steve Smith, who was not to be, both as a forceful leader and as a mainstay in the batting line up.

Batting

One cannot blame the RR’s team management as they picked a good team first up. In the column of the Indian batters, RR have Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson who were expected to play a major role in the team’s success. While Samson has been good with 332 runs till now, Rahane with 239 runs would have certainly liked to shoulder some more responsibility.

As their overseas batting stars, the onus was on D’ Arcy Short, who got the limelight due of a successful Big Bash League, and the English duo of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler.

While Stokes is still due with the bat, Buttler has compensated for his past performances with three consecutive fifties in the last 3 matches. Buttler was initially slotted in the middle order but since he has come out to open the batting, he has looked a much more impactful player.

Bowling

Bought at a whopping sum of 11.5 crore, Jaydev Unadkat was expected to lead the bowling pack of RR. It is due to the pressure of the fat pay check or otherwise, Unadkat has lost his rhythm this season and has gone at an economy of almost 10 an over.

To be candid, Unadkat’s overdependence on the slower cutter, which has become his stock delivery, has made him a uni-dimensional bowler. Batsmen are lining themselves up for the slower one and getting stuck into Unadkat.

Fellow pacer Dhawal Kulkarni has pretty much met the same fate and has gone for over 9 runs per over without much success in the wickets column.

Barbadian pacer Jofra Archer has been a shining light amid the other ordinary looking RR bowlers. He has bowled well in the death on the back of his variations. Archer’s yorkers are on point and he also bowls a mean bouncer. This is the reason why he has been able to trouble the opposition batsmen.

Ish Sodhi, who came into the side as a replacement for the injured Afghanistan bowler Zahir Khan, has been given a nod in the playing XI recently. In the limited opportunities that he has got, Sodhi has shined with the ball.

All-rounders

Ben Stokes and Krishnappa Gowtham are the leading RR all-rounders. The pressure of being the most expensive IPL pick for the second year on the trot has got the better of the England all-rounder. While Stokes has not performed with the bat, he has done quite decently with the ball.

Gowtham, on the other hand has been good for Rajasthan. Apart from bowling in the Powerplay overs, he also won his team a match with some explosive striking in the death overs.

D’ Arcy Short and Jofra Archer were also touted as all-rounders to begin with but they have hardly contributed in bowling and batting respectively.

Road ahead

To keep their chances alive, RR have to win all 4 of their following matches. They are currently at the 6th spot in the points table, only above RCB and DD.

Beating Punjab in the last match is a good start for RR for reaching towards this goal but with them unable to find the right balance till now in the tournament, it would certainly be difficult for RR to win all their matches from here on.

Overall, RR looked a little underprepared with their plans. Unless they come together as a team and play with a lot more vigor, Rajasthan are on their way out of the IPL.

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