Rajasthan Royals finished bottom of the pile last season and if is a long time since they claimed their only title in the first edition of the tournament back in 2008. They have made the playoffs three times, but their progress has been inconsistent. And they were suspended in 2016 and 2017, along with CSK, after officials were found guilty of illegally betting on games.
The league phase was so tight last season that RR were in contention for a playoff place until the last couple of games and finished only two points off third place. But captain Steve Smith was released before the auction and head coach Andrew McDonald moved on after only one season in charge and has yet to be replaced. Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara has come in as director of cricket and may yet take charge of the team. Sanju Samson has taken over as captain.
Plenty of changes, but after finishing in the bottom two in the last two editions, can RR go higher this season?
Rajasthan Royals IPL Record
Sanju Samson (c), David Miller, Ben Stokes, Chris Morris, Liam Livingstone, Shivam Dube, Jos Buttler, Mayank Markande, Jofra Archer, Jaydev Undadkat, Mustafizur Rahman, Andrew Tye, Mahipal Lomror, Manan Vohra, Riyan Parag, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Rahul Tewatia, Anju Rawat, Shreyas Gopal, KC Cariappa, Kartik Tyagi, Akash Singh, Chetan Sakariya, Kuldip Yadav.
Sanju Samson (captain), Kumar Sangakkara (director of cricket), Trevor Penney (lead asst coach), Amol Muzumdar (batting coach), Sid Lahiri (batting coach), Rob Cassell (fast bowling coach), Steffan Jones (fast bowling development coach), Sairaj Bahutule (spin bowling coach), Ish Sodhi (spin bowling consultant)
AUCTION ACTIVITY 2021
INS: Chris Morris (RS 16.25 crore), Shivam Dube (RS 4.40 crore), Chetan Sakariya (RS 1.20 crore), Mustafizur Rahman (RS 1.00 crore), Liam Livingstone (Rs 70 lakh), K.C Cariappa (Rs 20 lakh), Akash Singh (Rs 20 lakh), Kuldip Yadav (Rs 20 lakh).
OUTS: Steve Smith, Ankit Rajpoot, Oshane Thomas, Akash Singh, Varun Aaron, Tom Curran, Anirudha Joshi, Shashank Singh (all released).
RAJASTHAN ROYALS’ CHANCES in 2021
Sanju Samson takes over as skipper and, as always, there will be scrutiny over whether this has an impact on his own game.
The Royals have recently received the news that Jofra Archer has returned home from England’s tour of India with an elbow injury. The leader of Rajasthan’s pace attack looks likely to miss the first part of the IPL season and that leaves a huge hole in their bowling ranks.
Big spending on South African bowling all-rounder Chris Morris may prove prudent. He was purchased to provide Archer with support, but without him may have to fire alone, although Kartik Tyagi is a young fast bowler that impressed last season.
The Royals gave us the term ‘to be Tewatiad’ last season when Rahula Tewatia produced the innings of the tournament to take 30 off an over and secure a win after a rabbit in the headlights start. The franchise will need such fight again. They are a side where key players must perform if they have a playoff chance.
JOFRA ARCHER – Now ruled out for the 2021 IPL with injury.
CHRIS MORRIS was the headline act in the 2021 auction as Rajasthan paid a record-breaking RS 16.25 crore for his all-round talents. Morris took 11 wickets in his nine games for RCB last season at a tight economy rate of 6.63 runs per over. He contributed only 34 runs in five innings but can be a serious hitter in the lower middle-order. Whether he is worth the cash splashed is debatable, but RR knew they needed a partner for Archer. He will be watched closely to see if he lives up to his price tag. It’s unfair because he didn’t do the bidding, but regardless of success on the field his bank balance has several more zeros behind it now. Morris has suffered numerous injuries in his career and the Royals physio needs to keep him on the pitch.
JOS BUTTLER is undoubtedly one of the most destructive batsmen in white ball cricket and, along with fellow Englishman Ben Stokes, will have to be at his best to take the Royals into the latter stages of the competition. Buttler adds a quiet authority to the leadership group and will be a major asset to Sansom as captain. The 30-year-old English keeper-batsman will be keen to produce more than his 328 runs in 12 innings last season. He travelled along at a strike-rate of 144.49 and if he can do that with a greater return in the runs column he will have a major impact on Royals’ chances.
YOUNGSTER TO WATCH: YASHASVI JAISWAL
Jaiswal is a huge young talent that claimed the Man of the Tournament award at the Under-19 World Cup in 2020. The 19-year-old became the youngest player to score a List A double century in October 2019. Jaiswal is one of many young Indian players with a rags to riches back story. He lived in tents for three years to be close to quality coaching facilities and was spotted by Jwala Singh, who ran a cricket academy in Santacruz. Singh ultimately became Jaiswal’s legal guardian, gave him a place to stay and he is now an IPL and Mumbai player. You would need a hard heart to begrudge this talented youngster IPL riches and future success.
WHERE WILL RAJASTHAN ROYALS FINISH?
With Jofra Archer likely to miss the season, without him, the Royals are missing their biggest weapons. It is hard to see them making the playoffs, or possibly even bettering their 2020 bottom-placed finish.
James Buttler is a cricket journalist, broadcaster and host of the Cricket Badger Podcast. You can tune into the IPL Daily editions here: https://podfollow.com/cricket-badger-podcast