In the 2020 edition of the IPL, Rajasthan Royals were a fun side to watch - a great mix of characters that talks up the very nature of the format. However, results have always been the bottomline in any tournament and that tells us that the Royals ended as the wooden spooners.
In a nutshell, the Royals were a bunch of superstars and a group of phlegmatic anachronisms put together, who they call a T20 franchise. I mean, yes, how can you otherwise explain the multi-faceted dynamism that kick-started a campaign of light but frizzled out faster than a political party’s agenda. Sanju Samson and Jofra Archer lit up in their own sweet way, but Samson could not hold up for a longer period. A consistent partner never arrived for Archer and all his good work flushed down the drain with some disastrous middle-order batting. A season that basically saw them being one of the contenders to a group of headless chickens. No doubt they ended even below CSK.
This edition of the tournament will be remembered for the bowling brilliance as well as the stunning attribution by the young players who had their share of fun. For the Royals, Archer was the godsend which could be understood from the fact that he conceded just 4.34 runs per over in the powerplay - the best by any bowler in the first six overs this season. His economy of 5.35 tells us how big a role he played this time. Wish he had more support from the other end!
Last year, after taking over the mantle of leadership from Ajinkya Rahane, Steve Smith gave the impression that he could be the messiah for the Royals but the story was agonisingly different this time. Not only the leader failed to showcase his tactical nous but also failed massively as a batsman, scoring 237 runs in 14 matches while fiddling around the batting order. His strike rate of 131.22 was marginally better than his IPL career SR but that never took off on a consistent basis. He could be squarely blamed but so poor was the Royals in the middle-phase of the tournament that multiple contenders stood up on a wholesome level.
Marks for direction - 3/10
Taking over from Paddy Upton, Andre McDonald showed a great amount of spin in his planning and execution, such as sending Steve Smith and Ben Stokes to open, using Rahul Tewatia as a subverted floater but those were more of punts than any masterstroke. It fell off right at the time and ensured a disaster for the Royals after a captivating Sharjah-powered start to the season. Not trusting the instinct in the middle phase of the tournament and being too cautious with their skipper’s role played such a big part that David Miller and Andrew Tye had to be content with little to no opportunity.
Rajasthan Royals - Delhi Capitals comes a close second - are known to be the hotbed and a dream place for an Indian youngster and this year was no different. However, the biggest story of the season has to be Rahul Tewatia - a proper journeyman cricketer - who piled on 255 runs at a strike rate of 139 while accounting for 10 wickets. The only Indian player to do so, Tewatia was the biggest positive for the Manoj Badale-owned franchise in an otherwise disappointing season.
The Royals didn’t stick with Jaydev Unadkat the way they did in the previous seasons but it was a pure disaster whenever they did. The Saurashtra skipper, who had an excellent Ranji Trophy season, was expected to make amends for his previous failures but no. In 7 matches, he conceded runs at 57 with an economy just shy below 10. That, with the likes of Akash Singh and Varun Aaron waiting in the wings. It didn’t make any tactical sense to me and not to any Royals fans either when AB de Villiers whacked him out of the park to beat the North Indian franchise single-handedly. Was the Royals expecting so much from Unadkat whose spunk remained absent in the white-ball cricket and every wicket taken by him seemed like a miracle? Nothing saddens a cricketing fanatic than this unsolved mystery.
Yashasvi Jaiswal was another disappointment for the season but there was no place for him at the top of the order after few ordinary showings. The team couldn’t afford to bring him in due to the nature of their overseas composition and that ended up restricted to only three appearances this season. A promising youngster being crippled by the system but there is always a better tomorrow.
Sanju Samson is the only batsman who finds himself in the top 20 of the run-getter list this season which is nominally only solace for the team. When Samson fired, the team sang the glory song. His three half-centuries were so good that it filled the heart of cricket fans worldover. Jos Buttler also did his Aparshakti Khurana-esque part but fell by quite a mile with the rich standard he has set for himself. In the bowling front, Archer and Tewatia were the only saving grace with no one else stepping up.