Before Rajasthan Royals started their campaign in the Indian Premier League 2022, Director of Cricket Kumar Sangakkara had predicted in a media interaction that the first century for the team would perhaps come from Jos Buttler. Little could he have known that his team’s opener would end up scoring four centuries in the season, the joint-most by any player in the IPL in one edition, to guide their team to the final.
However, he did know that the squad that they had pieced together in the mega-auction was a well-rounded one. And, that perhaps, is the reason RR overcame the drought after fourteen long years to make it to the final this season to take on Gujarat Titans.
“I think, we got a wonderfully accomplished squad that can play in different match conditions, against different oppositions,” Sangakkara had said.
With a well-rounded squad that boasts good depth in both batting bowling, RR were one of the strongest sides on paper since the start of the tournament. But Sangakkara reckoned that it was having a fixed core group of nine players that made the execution of his plans easier. Their consistent plan of action played a huge role in bringing them to the final.
RR's results in every IPL season
|Season||League stage finish||Playoff result|
|IPL 2011||6th out of 10||––|
|IPL 2012||7th out of 9||––|
|IPL 2013||3rd out of 9||Won Eliminator, Lost Qualifier 2|
|IPL 2015||4th||Lost in the Eliminator|
|IPL 2018||4th||Lost in the Eliminator|
|IPL 2022||2nd||In the final|
It is not often that the stats for both the leading run-scorer and leading wicket-taker both belong to the same team for pretty much entirety of a season. But that’s what Rajasthan Royals can boast of – Jos Buttler, with 824 runs so far, is the undisputed king when it comes to the number of runs this season, while leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has bowled his heart out to pick up 26 wickets in 16 matches for his new franchise.
Uncomplicated yet radical
RR’s bowling coach Lasith Malinga, in a conversation with Scroll.in earlier in the season, provided an assessment of what made the current RR squad tick.
“Rajasthan Royals is a good, balanced team. They have the match-winning players and all the young players are hungry to win because they have been able to win the cup only in 2008, they are waiting for another cup,” he had said.
Also read: Gujarat Titans, chasing glory
“I think, they all want to be the best in the game during the tournament and that’s the most important thing. Everyone wants to win the match. They have experienced players of IPL and international cricket. I feel this year, all the young players have the opportunity to see how the senior players are playing this pressure game. That is important.”
Sangakkara also echoed the sentiment in the post-match presentation after the team’s seven-wicket win over Royal Challengers Bangalore in Qualifier 2.
“That’s an advantage of having an experienced side. We have a core group of nine players with exceptional experience and skill and around them, we have young guys and some very senior players in the bench,” the former Sri Lankan captain said.
“What I have to do as a coach is very little. It is just about being responsible for what has happened, owning it as a unit and then relaxing on the next couple of games, focusing on what we can do better.”
Buttler’s form especially has been a big factor in RR getting this far.
“It’s hard to describe what he (Buttler) has done for us this season in terms of T20 batting. He started off well, he had a little bit of a flutter at one point in the tournament but then he just calmed himself down, had a lot of good conversations rather than just training,” he said at the post-match press conference,” Sangakkara said on Friday, before elaborating on his adaptability.
The dissection from the two most important men behind the scenes underlines the importance of keeping the process simple in a dynamic T20 cricket space. And make no mistake, relying on uncomplicated processes does not mean being simplistic by any means. RR were the first team in the league to execute and acknowledge the need to use tactics like ‘retiring out’ in this format and it speaks volumes about their approach.
RR's top 5 batters
RR's top 5 bowlers
No dearth of heroes
What also powers this team is a player that is doing justice to the tag of a multi-utility player – their captain Sanju Samson, who may have been missing from the India T20 squad against South Africa but has remained focussed on his roles at the franchise.
Even as he leads the side, keeps wickets and bats for the team, he remains an inspired captain who does not tweak his approach simply because it is likely to guarantee him security. He’s still the calm and composed personality at the post-match presentations and still the batter that takes on the bowlers with a refreshing intent. It may not guarantee him the ‘job security’, internationally as things stand at the moment, but that is a sign of a player secure in his abilities.
Although the team’s success can be widely attributed to match winners like Buttler and Chahal, supporting acts from Sanju Samson, Devdutt Padikkal, Shimron Hetmyer in the batting unit and Prasidh Krishna, Trent Boult, R Ashwin and Obed McCoy made sure that there were different heroes who starred, who wanted to secure the coveted spot in the final. There were also glimpses of their investment in uncapped players such as Yashaswi Jaiswal, Riyan Parag and Kuldeep Sen bringing returns as they each have at least one match-winning contribution to show this season.
More than anything – all processes, team combinations and match winners can only be bolstered when you are driven. They would want to replicate the 2008 heroics of the one hero that set the ball rolling in the first edition of the league. This year, Rajasthan Royals have a drive that ties them back to their their ultimate hero, their first leader, Shane Warne.