Comebacks can never be easy and it becomes an even more uphill task when your captain and best batsman for the season gets banned for a ball tampering fiasco. That is the challenge that the Rajasthan Royals are confronted with. Back after a ban of two years, they did make a few surprising decisions but the biggest blow for them would be to cope with the loss of banned former Australian captain Steve Smith.
One thing people need to realize is that you can never write the Royals off. They have this uncanny ability of surprising people and with Shane Warne back as mentor, you never know which way their script will spin! Even though Warne is known to be a straight talker, you never know when his team will throw in the flipper or the googly!
The Royals have never been known to splurge money on players but this time they did exactly that when they spent a significant amount on Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat. While one understands the impact Stokes can have, many were baffled with the amount for which Unadkat went for. He was a much-improved bowler last season and will be looking to prove his doubters wrong.
The batting will now be led by captain Ajinkya Rahane, who has had a successful career with the Royals before their ban and will be joined by Sanju Samson, another former Royals player. Rahul Tripathi, who was tremendous for the Rising Pune Supergiants last season, will join the Royals ranks along with England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler and South African gloveman Heinrich Klassen, who has been named as a replacement for Smith. Big Bash League 2017 player of the tournament D’Arcy Short will also be looking for an opportunity to establish his credentials in the IPL. The rest of the batting line up consists of mostly lesser known Indian domestic players who will need to put up their hand and perform when the situation arises.
Stokes will be accompanied by Stuart Binny, Shreyas Gopal and Mahipal Lomror in the all-rounders department although Lomror might find it difficult to break into the starting eleven. The bowling will be led by the experienced Ben Laughlin and will have Dhawal Kulkarni, Dushmantha Chameera, Jofra Archer and Unadkat making up the rest of the contingent.
The spin duties will be shared by Ankit Sharma, Gopal and the lesser known Krishnappa Gowtham. At 29, Gowtham is not exactly a young Indian talent but a T20 career strike rate of 159.79 and an economy rate of less than 6.5 per over in the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament might just push him up the pecking order.
As it has always been for the Royals, the lesser known names will have to stand up and deliver to really make this tournament a successful one for them. It will be interesting to see if the combination of Warne and Rahane can work together to bring out a magical formula for them.
Probable best XI – Ajinkya Rahane (c), Rahul Tripathi, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Stuart Binny, Krishnappa Gowtham, Ankit Sharma, Jaydev Unadkat, Ben Laughlin, Dhawal Kulkarni
IPL 2017 Position – Did not play.
IPL 2018 Prediction – The performances of the international stars will no doubt decide the fate of the Royals. They have variety in their squad which covers them for all situations and conditions. If Warne can bring the best out of his players, which he is known to, then the Rajasthan fans are in for a treat!
© Cricket World 2018