The Indian Premier League auction on December 19 will see teams bidding for more than 300 players to fill up 73 slots (with 29 of those for overseas players). This is a mini-auction with some teams opting to retain bulk of their side while a few have opted for a revamp. The auction for IPL 2021 will offer teams a chance to reset their squads so this year, it will be about preparing for just the upcoming season and not exactly looking at the long haul. In this series, we take a look at what teams need for the upcoming season.

Rajasthan Royals found form towards the back end of the season after handing over the reigns to Steve Smith. The key to their wins was balance, something that every side tries to achieve. The ones who do are the most successful. Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings are cases in point.

There were changes made in the coaching setup and former Australia all-rounder Andrew McDonald finds himself in the hotseat. McDonald has loads of experience in his kitty and is one of the most sought after names in Australian cricket. He has also worked with Smith previously. The team needs to have a good auction, though. Two years ago, they went for big names, showing a significant change in strategy from their initial years.

Purse available: Rs 28.90 crore

Remaining slots: 11

Overseas player slots: 4

Players released (11): Ashton Turner, Oshane Thomas, Shubham Ranjane, Prashant Chopra, Ish Sodhi, Aryaman Birla, Jaydev Unadkat, Rahul Tripathi, Stuart Binny, Liam Livingstone, and Sudheshan Midhun.

Current RR squad composition

Batsmen  Bowlers  All-Rounders  Wicketkeepers
Mahipal Lomror Ankit Rajpoot Ben Stokes Jos Buttler
Manan Vohra Mayank Markande Rahul Tewatia Sanju Samson
Riyan Parag Jofra Archer Shashank Singh
Steve Smith  Shreyas Gopal
Varun Aaron

IPL 2020 auction, complete list: 7 overseas stars at Rs 2 crore base price, 332 players overall

Strengths of current squad

Assam teenager Riyan Parag was one of the finds of the season, displaying solid technique, composure and stood unfazed while playing with stalwarts. In English trio Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, they have bonafide match winners in their ranks. All three players, along with Smith, had terrific seasons for their country.

An overseas lineup of Stokes, Buttler, Smith and Archer is a mouthwatering prospect for any captain and and an in-form Sanju Samson to the mix, it’s one heck of batting order. Samson is on the fringes of the Indian side now and is finally living up to his immense potential.

That being said, Archer and Stokes had quiet seasons in 2018, which affected the team’s morale through the season.

Shreyas Gopal is one of the best Indian spinners in limited-overs cricket going around and has established himself as one of the mainstays of the side.

Mayank Markande, a talented wrist spinner, has been roped as Gopal’s backup for the season. Mahipal Lomror is also expected to get more game time. In Buttler, Rajasthan have one of the most destructive limited-overs batsmen.

Stokes didn’t set the stage on fire last year but the all-rounder, over the last few months, has shown that he can win matches on his own. Smith has come within touching distance of becoming an IPL-winning captain. With a stable backroom staff and a balanced XI in his ranks, there is no reason why Rajasthan can’t have a good run in the upcoming season.

What the team needs at the auction

Backups. In Markande, they have one in the spin department but the side is still light in terms of backups. Archer needs someone who can support him at the other end. Even last season, the Barbadian was isolated. Varun Aaron put up an improved display, convincing the team management to retain him. There are interesting options available in the Indian pace bowling category (uncapped) like Ishan Porel and Lukman Meriwala and both would be cheaper replacements for Jayadev Unadkat.

The England players have made a habit of missing the business end of the league so it is a no-brainer to have another batsmen of experience in their ranks. On paper, it seems a mistake to let K Gowtham go and they will need a bowler who can bat to replace him. The management spent big money on the Karnataka all-rounder a couple of years ago. Recently, he picked up 14 wickets in a Ranji Trophy match against Tamil Nadu. As far as options go in the spinning-allrounders category, there are not many in the auction even in the domestic pool and the franchise might consider someone like R Sai Kishore, the leading wicket-taker in Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 for his bowling abilities.

A player they could also reconsider if he comes up for the right price is Stuart Binny.

Having both Smith and Ajinkya Rahane upset their batting order somewhat. Finding another big-hitting Indian batsman will also be a priority for the management. But, Rajasthan need to plan for an entire season and not just bank on their Englishmen. Players like Marcus Stoinis and Moises Henriques could come in handy. David Miller could shore up the middle order but would not be a guaranteed starter. Too often, their resources have looked threadbare when the English contingent departs for the national duties.