When the IPL began in 2008, it was largely agreed that it was a welcome idea but the proposition that whether the league would become a worldwide phenomenon or not was still murky. However, the way teams competed in the first edition and the manner in which Shane Warne led a relatively young and inexperienced Rajasthan Royals team to become the champions made the Indian Premiere League a coveted tournament.
Rajasthan may not have been able to match their performance in the following seasons but continued to command respect despite making the playoffs only twice. However, when RR was banned in 2015, its popularity took a certain hit.
The franchise returns to the IPL in 2018 after a hiatus of two years and would be desperate to win back their lost respect. With this perspective, let us have a look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the Rajasthan Royals in this year’s IPL.
Under the leadership of Shane Warne and then Rahul Dravid, RR had made a reputation of following a conservative approach in the auctions. They invested in talented players who were rather unproven and then tried their best to groom them.
However, with the revenue of TV rights taking a quantum leap and more funds at the disposal of each franchise, there was a notable change in RR’s strategy this time around. They spent big on Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer and were successful in roping in two of the finest all-rounders in world T20 cricket right now. RR also have Krishnappa Gowtham as the big-ticket Indian all-rounder.
These utility players would come in very handy for RR as they would contribute in all the departments and lend balance to the side.
Shane Warne is back with RR after a long gap. Warne would take up the role of a mentor and bring in his vast experience and canny approach to the game which would certainly benefit the boys.
Although RR have a settled batting line up with the likes of Ben Stokes, and Jos Buttler as overseas batters along with Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson, they lack bowling depth. The likes of Dhawal Kulkarni, Anureet Singh, K Gowtham and Ben Laughlin may be wicket takers but many of them have a tendency in the past to go for plenty.
Even Jaydev Unadkat, the 11-crore buy of Rajasthan, is currently struggling and not being able to stem the flow of runs. This problem of RR is magnified further in the slog overs which is why they are prone to conceding too many runs at the death.
Spin, particularly wrist spin, is another thing which is in vogue and proving to be mighty effective in the T20 format. As far as RR’s spin bowling is concerned, it is very thin on resources. The Indian face of RR’s spin department is Krishnappa Gowtham who has performed very well at the List A level but is yet to prove himself at the big stage.
After Afghanistan left arm spinner Zahir Khan got injured, RR roped in New Zealand leg spinner Ish Sodhi who seems to be the only saving grace amid RR’s spin woes but it is not certain whether he would fit into the playing XI or not.
Ben Stokes, the costliest buy of the IPL auctions, is gradually settling himself back in international cricket after he was dropped from the national side in the wake of affray charges. Stokes had managed to live up to the expectations of his hefty price tag in the previous season and would like to repeat his heroics in order to make a statement to the cricketing fraternity.
Sanju Samson is another batsman whose talent was spotted and polished by RR itself. A full circle gets completed this year for Samson as he is back to the team which helped him grab the attention of all and sundry. The keeper batsman is put in high stead by the experts but he has not managed to break into the Indian team till now. This season brings an opportunity for him to pack a decisive punch and stake his claim in the national side.
RR have Jos Butler and Ben Stokes as power hitters but some others in their batting line up like Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson may sometimes take a while before they get going. In such a situation, there is always a threat of the team becoming extra cautious and as a result falling 10 or 20 runs short of the required score which may prove to be detrimental in the T20 format.
Ajinkya Rahane is also handling RR’s captaincy in this season in the absence of Steve Smith who is not being allowed to play in the league this year due to Cricket Australia’s one-year ban. However, Rahane seems to lack that spark which is so important to pick up a team. Also, Rahane has been going through a lean patch in his batting career and if the same continues, it would be difficult for him to lead the side from the front.
© Cricket World 2018