On the first day of the Indian Premier League 2022 mega auction, the Rajasthan Royals CEO made a statement that supporters of the franchise would’ve been elated to hear. It was a bold statement coming from a team that finished seventh, eighth and seventh respectively over the last three seasons.
“We’re building a team to win the championship, it’s as simple as that,” said RR CEO Jack Lush McCrum.
“And we think we bought players who can help us do that. We got a lot of feedback from the fans, we’ve learned a lot over the last few years. Hopefully the fans can see by the players we’re targeting, the squad we’re trying to build. And again, we want to win this season.”
Whether RR challenge for the title this year remains to be seen but they did have a decent auction. For a team that consistently lacked experience in crucial moments over the past few years, the Royals have more match-winners in their lineup now.
Rajasthan’s most expensive recruit at the auction was India fast bowler Prasidh Krishna, followed by West Indies batter Shimron Hetmyer, New Zealand pacer Trent Boult, and Indian batter Devdutt Padikkal. You add the next two names on this list – Yuzvendra Chahal and Ashwin Ravichandran – and there’s no denying the RR squad looks solid.
Players signed by RR
|Full name||Price (Rs cr)||Times over base price||Country||State Association||Age||Specialism||2021 Team||C/U/A||Base|
|Shimron Hetmyer||8.50||5.67||West Indies||25||BATSMAN||DC||Capped||150|
|Trent Boult||8.00||4.00||New Zealand||32||BOWLER||MI||Capped||200|
|James Neesham||1.50||1.00||New Zealand||31||ALL-ROUNDER||MI||Capped||150|
|Rassie Van Der Dussen||1.00||1.00||South Africa||33||BATSMAN||Capped||100|
|Obed Mccoy||0.75||1.00||West Indies||25||BOWLER||Capped||75|
Possible best playing XI
Sanju Samson (Rs 14 crore), Jos Buttler (Rs 10 crore) and Yashasvi Jaiswal (Rs 4 crore) were the three players rained by Rajasthan Royals prior to the auction. They have a total of 24 players in their squad, with Rs 95 lakh of their auction purse remaining unused. It could have been used for an uncapped pick at the end, but they have chosen not to evidently.
RR full squad and possible XI
|RR||Price (Rs cr)||Overseas|
|1|| Yashasvi Jaiswal||7.75|
|2||Jos Buttler (WK)||10||OS|
|4||Sanju Samson (C)||14|
|13||Rassi van der Dussen||1||OS|
You look at the top third and bottom third of the Rajasthan lineup and that’s where you’ll find their real strength. With Samson, Buttler and Jaiswal retained and Padikkal added to the squad, they have four high quality batters to begin with.
This has been a strength of the Royals in the past too, with the likes of Ben Stokes, and to an extent Steve Smith and Ajinkya Rahane at his best, providing stability and experience at the top of the order. But even here, there’s a concern for them this time around.
Padikkal was one of the mainstays in the Royal Challengers batting lineup, and he got his runs at the top of the order. But with Buttler and Jaiswal in the mix, the left-hander from Karnataka is likely to bat at No 3 and it remains to be seen how he will perform if he comes in when the field is spread.
“We like Devdutt Padikkal because he plays spin particularly well and fills that number three slot, with Sanju batting four this year,” RR Lead Owner Manoj Badale was quoted as saying during the auction.
The other strength of Rajasthan is the variety in their bowling lineup. Getting Chahal and Ashwin – two of India’s premier spinners – for a combined cost of Rs 11.5 crore was a major plus for the franchise at the auction. Chahal is arguably India’s finest white-ball spinner at the moment, while Ashwin brings immense experience to the table and can even be used in the powerplay.
In terms of pace bowling, they have Prasidh Krishna and Trent Boult to rely on. The New Zealander with his left-arm swing bowling is a wicket-taking asset in the powerplay, having helped Mumbai Indians win the title in 2020. And Prasidh’s career is on the rise, as was evident in his impressive show against West Indies in the recently-concluded One-Day Internationals, where he won the player of the series award.
Despite making some good picks at the auction, there are two glaring weaknesses for the Royals heading into the new season. Firstly, their batting order seems too top heavy once again. Their top four are sorted and they brought in Shimron Hetmyer for the No 5 slot and a great backup option in Rassie van der Dussen, but they ought to have had another hitter in the lower middle order who can bowl. Riyan Parag is likely to retain his place in the XI now but he has struggled for consistency in the past. It is a punt to back him again, plain and simple.
Rajasthan were in the race to bag West Indies all-rounder Romario Shepherd on day two of the auction but were out-bid by Sunrisers Hyderabad. They were then left with no choice but to go for James Neesham and Nathan Coulter-Nile in the final round of the auction. At that stage they had four overseas slots left in the squad and that cannot just be attributed to auction dynamics, whatever plans A, B and C they had for foreign players didn’t pan out.
Ideally, the Royals should have secured a finisher earlier. Even so, having returned with Rs 95 lakh of their purse at the end, should they have gone harder for Shepherd? Possibly even considered having a smaller squad to accommodate him? As things stand, they are left with a relatively weak lower middle order and three proper No 11s in Chahal, Prasidh and Boult to follow.
This leads us to the other big concern for Rajasthan. They have four bankable bowlers in their lineup but the fifth could be an issue. Neesham might get the nod because batting depth is an issue but expecting four overs from him consistently is a gamble. Coulter-Nile is the other option in the squad but expecting too much from his batting wouldn’t be prudent.
Who’s saying what
Rajasthan Royals Lead Owner Manoj Badale: “I’ll be honest, I think the first half of Day 2 didn’t quite go as we had planned. I think teams with a bit more money in their purse got the better of us when it came to our all-rounder targets earlier in the day. During the latter part, it was important to fill in the slots that required work, and looking at it now, we’re delighted with the squad we’ve been able to finalise, which is certainly a mixture of proven experience and exciting youth.”