After kindling so much hope from the fan-base in the very first season, Rajasthan Royals have pretty much just walked the distance without the talk. One of their mainstays, Ajinkya Rahane, too, has switched allegiance, putting immense pressure on the foreign recruits to carry the team.
Despite having ‘Royals’ in their name, Rajasthan's performance last season was a true shame to their glorious past, finishing a mere seventh with a star-studded lineup. After the first three games in the 2019 season, there were no Royals faithful who would have seen their franchise reaching the playoffs, for the right reasons, and predictably they ended up with just five wins the entire season.
A major part of the reason for them winning five games out of the 14 was their batting prowess at the top of the order, with them scoring 50.07 runs in the powerplay, the third-best in the league while just losing 1.23 wickets, fourth-best in the competition. A major reason for the franchise scoring an average of 165.61 runs, fourth-best was their top three, who combined for 47.67% of those runs, ranking sixth last season despite Jos Buttler missing many games.
Royals’ top batsman last season, Ajinkya Rahane, was both their focal and weak point in the setup. Rahane’s 393 runs was definitely the highest for the franchise but it always meant it lowered the percentage of boundaries and sixes. Out of the 2153 runs they scored last season, only 55.42% were from boundaries, league’s seventh-best. They also ranked last in terms of sixes scored (66).
This season, they would have to do without their top run-scorer, with the franchise replacing their former skipper with an IPL winner in the form of Robin Uthappa, who walks in on the back of his worst season, in IPL 2019, where he scored just 282 runs despite playing 12 games, at an average of 31.33. Another player they have added to tackle their top-order crisis is youngster Yashasvi Jaiswal, who hasn’t played a T20 yet. But the franchise somehow is confident that he can pull it off.
They have, however, kept hold of their second-best batsman, Sanju Samson, who scored 342 runs for the franchise in 2019. In a bid to strengthen their middle-order, Royals have added David Miller, who just like Uthappa walks in on the back of a mediocre season but will add impetus to their power-hitting towards the death overs, where they scored 44.5 runs on average, only fifth-best last season. However, there exists an inherent issue with Miller’s signing - the Royals already have their four foreign recruits sorted: Buttler, Smith, Stokes and Archer. Miller, in all likelihood, barring an injury to the incumbents, looks set to be a mere spectator. However, the impetus will still be on Buttler to do the bulk of the scoring, in the absence of Rahane.
While they were third-best when it came to batting powerplay, they were ranked second-best in restricting the opposition from getting off to a pulsating start (45.92). Their new-ball bowling was bolstered by the presence of Jofra Archer and Dhawal Kulkarni, who accounted for 24.2% of their wickets last season. Seemingly, they also picked up an average of 1.15 wickets in the powerplay, ranking fourth in the tournament.
More importantly, thanks to their top-wicket taker last season, Shreyas Gopal, RR pulled things back nicely in the middle overs, picking up a wicket every 44.5th run. The leg-spinner picked up 28.5% of their wickets last season - 20 wickets at an economy rate of 7.22. It was visibly seen in their boundaries conceded per innings, just 20.46 on average per match, the third-best in the entire competition, last season.
In retrospect, however, their death bowling was their weakest chain last season, where they conceded 51 runs, ranked sixth in the league. One of the major culprits during the death overs was Jaydev Unadkat, who the franchise have shown faith in during the Auction, once gain. The Royals took just 2.07 wickets on average at the death, ranking seventh amonst 8 teams.
On the same page, Royals were smart on the table, acquiring England’s Tom Curran, one of the hottest prospects in T20 cricket around the world. His street-smart bowling towards the end combined with his variations has helped him pick 151 wickets in the shortest format, all coming at a strike-rate of 16.4. Moreso, his showing in the Big Bash League would only make their purchase more impressive, as the pacer led the wickets chart for the Sydney Sixers, with 22 wickets.
That was not all as RR went one step ahead with the acquisition of Andrew Tye, one of Australia’s premier death-over specialists. While Tye might not have impressed in his last year with Kings XI Punjab, his bowling has been well-documented in the league. His purchase too, like David Miller, should be taken with a pinch of salt, for his stocks in the shortest format has kind of plummeted in dramatic fashion.
Can the Royals throw away their wooden spoons and pick up some silverware instead??
SportsCafe's Smart Predictions
RR's smart predictions for IPL 2020 © SportsCafe