Very rarely a team can boast a line-up as envious as Rajasthan Royals’ but ask around, would anyone really want to be a part of the set-up for real? It is this dichotomy that has come thanks to the unique, yet failed, team philosophy, aided by some of the extravagant thinking processes.
The perennial bridesmaid of the IPL, Rajasthan Royals’ story has been quite a linear one that even the signings of Steve Smith, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, D’Arcy Short, or Ben Stokes haven't been able to change. Whether it comes down to the planning or that lack of desire is out of the scope of this story but one thing's for sure, if the team can sort their mess out, it could easily be the team one touted them to always be.
With Buttler, Archer, Stokes, Samson, and Smith, they have a line-up worth its penny, but after getting rid of Ajinkya Rahane in a trade to Delhi Capitals, the Royals have a gaping hole waiting to be filled at the top of the order. That aside, the decision to not retain Liam Livingstone and Ashton Turner was one mixed with foresight and pragmatic understanding of the situation, but two, or at least one, big signing(s), can ensure that Stokes won’t be burdened to take up a lot of responsibility should Smith fail to deliver at the top of the order. However, that is not the end of the problems for them. Trading Dhawal Kulkarni to Mumbai Indians and then doing away with Jaydev Unadkat means Varun Aaron and Ankit Rajpoot are the two major Indian pacers in the team. Stacking the team with one more Indian pacer would actually help release the pressure.
Dream Signings: Alex Hales or Chris Green
One of a brazen new breed of English batsmen who could take the bull by its horns from the word go, Alex Hales is facing the consequences of his own wrongdoing - and doping violation is not a small sin after all. However, that wouldn’t be a deterrent for him to fetch big bucks in India next week, at least on the back of a solid Vitality Blast that he had with Nottinghamshire, where he accumulated 418 runs with five half-centuries from 12 games. He has been here in India before, done well whenever presented an opportunity, and it would do a world of good to the Royals if they manage to snap him up in the auction to bolster the top-order strength.
But what about the spin-bowling department? I mean, who would play the supporting cast to Shreyas Gopal’s googly barrages? Would Riyan Parag’s part-time spin be enough in the absence of K Gowtham? As I thought of this, Chris Green’s name kept spamming my head over and over again, and eventually, convinced me that he would be the man. A master of bowling the tough overs with just two men outside the circle, Green proved to be an effective spinner for Guyana Amazon Warriors where he bowled 168 balls in the first six overs in 2019, conceding just 151 runs while picking up five wickets. He is a handy batsman and can be Rajasthan Royals’ answer to KKR’s version of Sunil Narine. With a base price of 20 lakhs, he can actually be a steal, but Rajasthan should be wary of the prices to be spiked off.
Can they go for both? If it is, they would be the winner of the trade but if they have to zero in with one, I would suggest them to go bonkers for Hales. He is a destructor. Isn’t he?
Realistic signings: D’ Arcy Short and/or Mark Wood
D’Arcy Short had already played for the Royals, and although he had failed massively, don’t be surprised if his six-hitting capabilities convince the Royals to pick him up again. In the last season of the Big Bash League, Short accumulated a mammoth 637 runs to be the top-scorer in the tournament, and in the process, showed a hitting method that was brutal in simplicity and simple in its brutality. Although most of the Royals’ retained overseas are the first preference in the starting line-up, having a Short as a back-up would be too good a proposition for the worst-case situations.
While we talked so much about the batting and spin bowling so far, what about that low-key aspect, and one of the aspects that have made the Royals a troll-favourite? “Hell yeah, we have Jofra The Archer,” a Rajasthan Royals fan can go to the rooftop and scream but the fact remains. He can’t handle the burden alone and to ease some pressure off him, what about having another English prospect? Mark Wood has pace, he can skiddle opposition with his rawness, and most importantly, has the smarts to execute the dynamics in both powerplay and death.
Wildcard signing: Ben Cutting
A solid fielder, useful batsman, and a wicket-taking bowler - Ben Cutting is the pure prototype of a T20 cricketer going around and has proven to be a solid in-take in the various seasons of the Indian Premier League. A Ben Stokes-kind of a player when it comes to batting, Cutting is a remarkable hitter of pace, and that makes up for his apparent inability against spin. For the fact that he wouldn’t attract a huge bid this time, the Royals will be well served with Cutting. A wildcard choice for them, maybe?
SportsCafe suggests: Priyam Garg and Chris Green
I would stick to my initial dream idea of having Green at any cost as the Sydney Thunder star has been an impeccable addition to any side for the simplicity he brings with his off-spin. From the IPL auction trends over the years, it had been established that fringe overseas players hardly attract heavy bids in the IPL auction, which makes it easy for the Royals to snap him to their kitty easily.
That aside, I would suggest the Royals go all-out for India U-19 captain Priyam Garg. The 18-year-old finished the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy as the second-highest run-scorer for Uttar Pradesh, making 814 runs at an average of 67.83, with two hundreds, including a career-best 206, and when it comes to the shortest format, he is no slack either. Going ahead with him would do to their “serving Indian cricket” tag a lot more help and give them a prospect in the middle order who would do just fine, if not great.
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