Ever since returning to the Indian Premier League (IPL) fold in 2018, Rajasthan Royals has made it a habit to splurge in the auctions. If it snapped up Jaydev Unadkat for a whopping ₹11.5 crore three seasons ago, the franchise broke all records this time — roping in South African all-rounder Chris Morris for ₹16.25 crore.
However, in the past, those bidding wars did not quite help Royals on the field as the team failed to make it to the playoffs in the 2019 and 2020 editions. In fact, last season, the team had an abysmal outing — finishing at the bottom of the table, despite having some of the superstars in its ranks.
And, as expected, the Royals made a bold move by parting ways with its captain and Australian superstar Steve Smith. The much trusted Sanju Samson was named the captain and the franchise roped in former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara as its director of cricket.
The idea was simple — to get the house in order ahead of yet another season.
While the Royals stretched their purse to the maximum, eyebrows were raised over Morris’ huge pay package, even though Sangakkara made it clear that the South African has a ‘ very specific role to play in supporting’ Jofra Archer. However, ahead of the tournament, the franchise finds itself in a spot, with injured Archer set to miss a large part of the tournament, if not the entire one.
And that, certainly, will be a big blow. Despite a flop show last season, Archer was the brightest spot for the Royals — he emerged as the Player of the Tournament. So, in his absence, Morris will not only have to step up, but will also need to spearhead the fast bowling department, which has been largely inconsistent in the previous editions.
Rajasthan has roped in Bangladesh pacer Mustafizur Rahman, who could emerge as the surprise element. – K. R. Deepak
The positive bit, however, is the fact that the team has roped in Bangladesh pacer Mustafizur Rahman — who could emerge as the surprise element. Once considered the brightest talent of Bangladesh, Mustafizur has previously featured for Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians, and that experience should do him a piece of good in this year’s tournament.
While the batting unit will be reliant on captain Samson, focus will also be on two English star recruits — Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, who toured India with the England national team in January-March. Having been in the country for nearly a couple of months now, both have an idea about the conditions and that would certainly help the team.
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If he is fit, Mustafizur Rahman could be a game-changing bowler for Rajasthan Royals. In the absence of Archer, Mustafizur — who was roped in for ₹1 crore — could form a lethal combination, teaming up with Chris Morris and Jaydev Unadkat. Known for his trademark ‘cutter’, Mustafizur made a huge impact when he broke into the international arena. Even though he has been slightly off-colour over the last couple of years, the Bangladesh pacer has the talent to turn things around.
This time, too, the side has a fine balance of experience and youth, and the Royals fans would hope that the team breaks its title jinx and does not lose the plot midway!
The Royals will be playing in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru where conditions would vary, but it is important for the team management to ensure that it does not tweak its playing XI every now and then. In an ideal scenario, Ben Stokes should open the innings with a young Yashasvi Jaiswal, and the middle order would be taken care by Samson, Buttler, Rahul Tewatia and Riyan Parag. There is enough depth in the lower middle order as well, with Morris around.
Ideal Playing XI
Ben Stokes, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson (captain), Jos Buttler, Rahul Tewatia/Shivam Dube, Riyan Parag, Chris Morris, Shreyas Gopal/Mayank Markande, Jaydev Unadkat, Kartik Tyagi, Mustafizur Rahman/Andrew Tye.