Over the years, Rajasthan Royals have developed a reputation of not being considered serious title contenders by many. And there’s a good reason for that. After winning the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League in 2008, they made it to the playoffs just three times in nine attempts.
The Royals returned from their two-year suspension in 2018 and managed to sneak into the playoffs. It was a promising run for them, something they could build on. But a seventh-place finish in IPL 2019 further cemented their position as one of the weakest teams in the T20 competition.
Looking ahead at the upcoming edition in the United Arab Emirates, Rajasthan will once again bank on their four overseas superstars to rally the rest of the squad. In Steve Smith, Ben Stokes (his participation is still up in the air), Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler, they have four of the brightest talents in world cricket, all of whom are very much in their prime.
RR's record over the years in IPL
|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|
A key addition for RR has been the appointment of Andrew McDonald as head coach. The Australian, who has experience as a coach in his country’s men’s national team, in the Sheffield Shield, in England’s County Cricket, the Big Bash League, and the IPL (bowling coach for RCB), will be expected to inculcate a winning mentality, something that’s been seemingly absent from the Rajasthan team.
At the last auction, they got hold of the up-and-coming Yashasvi Jaiswal, the seasoned Robin Uthappa, and South African hard-hitter David Miller to strengthen their batting. Among bowlers, Andrew Tye, Oshane Thomas, Tom Curran and young Kartik Tyagi were important buys.
RR's squad for IPL 2020
|Mahipal Lomror||Ankit Rajpoot||Shreyas Gopal||Jos Buttler|
|Manan Vohra||Mayank Markande||Ben Stokes*||Robin Uthappa|
|Riyan Parag||Jofra Archer||Rahul Tewatia||Sanju Samson|
|David Miller||Varun Aaron||Shashank Singh||Anuj Rawat|
|Steve Smith||Jaydev Unadkat||Anirudha Joshi|
|Yashasvi Jaiswal||Kartik Tyagi|
Players in action post lockdown
Among the players with Rajasthan Royals in the UAE at the start of IPL 2020, there are five players who have played professional cricket since the lockdown began.
Captain Smith played three T20Is in England (scores of 18, 10 and 3) but missed the ODI series after suffering a blow to the head during a training session. Cricket Australia have said they are “working in tandem” with RR over Smith’s concussion and the star batsman is a doubt to play his team’s opening game.
Archer and Buttler both played plenty of games during England’s recently-concluded home season (mostly red-ball before finally returning to the white-ball cricket at the end). While fast bowler showed sparks of brilliance, Buttler stamped his class with a few match-winning knocks for his country across formats. Archer had a return of 10 wickets in six matches (three ODIs, three T20Is). Buttler had a poor ODI series but hit 44 and 77* in the two T20Is against Australia.
Tom Curran, too, featured in a number of white-ball games but did not have the wickets tally that he would have liked. He played a brilliant hand with the bat, however, in the second ODI against Australia to show his value as an all-rounder. Tye, meanwhile, was part of the Australia squad on tour and played in intra-squad matches.
Thomans, meanwhile, played three games for Jamaica Tallawahs in the Caribbean Premier League but could manage to take just one wicket as pacers struggled across the board.
Finally, there is also Stokes. He hasn’t joined the RR squad yet (more on that below) but the star all-rounder was close to his best in the Test series against West Indies in July.
With Smith, Stokes, Buttler, Miller, Jaiswal and Sanju Samson, Rajasthan’s biggest strength has to be their batting. Their top order has always had quality but they’ve struggled to piece together the middle order in the past. But with Miller and and Uthappa’s inclusion, they will have more flexibility in their batting this time around even if the two players have not had the best of recent T20 records.
They have a clutch of young Indian cricketers too, who could go on to have breakthrough campaigns. In Parag, they have a highly-regarded cricketer who showed what he is capable of last season while Jaiswal impressed the cricketing world during the U19 World Cup to back up his domestic success.
The under-rated Shreyas Gopal is also another weapon in their ranks, who could go on to have his best season yet.
But for the Royals, it all comes down to whether or not their star overseas players come together and build momentum for the side. There is a glaring absence of even a single Indian star, which puts the onus on the likes of Smith, Buttler, Archer and Stokes to be at their best.
There are a few clear weaknesses as far for the Royals. Firstly, there is the concern over Smith’s head injury and the absence of Stokes early on. The England all-rounder took part in the three-Test series against West Indies and the first Test against Pakistan, but missed the remainder of the season as he flew to New Zealand to be with his ailing father. It’s still unclear if or when he will travel to the UAE although he seems to have resumed practice. With two of their four overseas stars missing potentially missing, Rajasthan may struggle to start strong in the tournament.
Then there is, of course, the lack of a heavyweight Indian player. Not one member of the RR squad is a sure-shot pick for India’s limited-overs sides. They have plenty of promising young local talent, but the overdependence on international players could cost them dearly. Champion teams usually are built on a strong Indian core.
Finally, Rajasthan’s bowling department isn’t the strongest either. Archer and Shreyas Gopal are match-winners but RR will need players like Jaydev Unadkat and Varun Aaron to be chip in big time. Tye, Thomas and Curran can be useful but it remains to be seen how much game-time they get. It will be the Indian bowlers, which includes young Kartik Tyagi and Akash Singh, who will have to step up.
Most Valuable Player
It has to be Buttler. If he finds his best, RR could ride on his shoulders to make their way to the playoffs. Recently declared “England’s best-ever white-ball cricketer” by fast-bowling legend Stuart Broad, the right-hander can match the best in the business when it comes to power hitting. And unlike many, he does it by playing risk-free cricket.
At 30, Buttler is at the peak of his powers. He played a crucial role in England’s march to the ODI World Cup title last year and fortunately for RR, he is in fine form at the moment as well.
One of the key advantages with Buttler is that he can be used at any time in the innings, since he is comfortable against both spin and pace. He certainly has the calibre to win matches single-handedly for Rajasthan.
Potential breakout star
Jaiswal is one to watch out for in the RR line-up. The left-handed opener created a huge impression with his brilliant performances in the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year in South Africa. He finished as the highest run-scorer in the tournament and played a key role in India finishing as runners-up.
The 18-year-old will take confidence from his performance at the Under-19 World Cup, as well as in List A matches in India, and look to make a mark in IPL 2020. His attractive strokeplay can surely draw attention and if he manages to find form, Royals will have a lot more flexibility in their batting order.
RR fixtures for IPL 2020
|RR vs CSK||22 Sep, Tue (1930)||Sharjah|
|RR vs KXIP||27 Sep, Sun (1930)||Sharjah|
|RR vs KKR||30 Sep, Wed (1930)||Dubai|
|RCB vs RR||3 Oct, Sat (1530)||Abu Dhabi|
|MI vs RR||6 Oct, Tue (1930)||Abu Dhabi|
|RR vs DC||9 Oct, Fri (1930)||Sharjah|
|SRH vs RR||11 Oct, Sun (1530)||Dubai|
|DC vs RR||14 Oct, Wed (1930)||Dubai|
|RR vs RCB||17 Oct, Sat (1530)||Dubai|
|CSK vs RR||19 Oct, Mon (1930)||Abu Dhabi|
|RR vs SRH||22 Oct, Thu (1930)||Dubai|
|RR vs MI||25 Oct, Sun (1930)||Abu Dhabi|
|KXIP vs RR||30 Oct, Fri (1930)||Abu Dhabi|
|KKR vs RR||1 Nov, Sun (1930)||Dubai|
Do Rajasthan Royals have enough firepower to finish in the top four? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting to us @thefield_in.