Ben Jones previews Rajasthan Royals ahead of IPL 2019.
Last season: 4th
Last year was defined by the work of Jos Buttler. His promotion to the top of the order was an enormous turning point in the season, as his 428 runs at 9.95rpo as an opener (and an average of 107) almost single-handedly dragged Rajasthan into the play-offs. They fell before reaching the final, but overall most suggested they had over-achieved to reach that stage at all, and would do extremely well to get close to matching that this season.
There are no real changes to Rajasthan’s list from last season. They have added strength in depth for their overseas players, bringing in Liam Livingstone and Ashton Turner to try and cover for World Cup departures, as well as signing Oshane Thomas to strengthen their seam bowling, but all in all this is the same squad as 2018. Given quite how much they were carried by Buttler in 2018, this could be an issue.
- Total players: 25
- Numbers of overseas players: 8
Openers: Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Tripathi
Middle-order batsmen: Steven Smith, Aryaman Birla, Manan Vohra
Wicketkeepers: Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson, Prashant Chopra
Allrounders: Ben Stokes, Stuart Binny, Jofra Archer, K Gowtham, Mahipal Lomror, Riyan Parag, Shashank Singh, Liam Livingstone, Ashton Turner, Shubham Ranjane
Wristspinners: Shreyas Gopal, Midhun S, Ish Sodhi
Fast bowlers: Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni, Varun Aaron, Oshane Thomas
Depending on the balance of their overseas selection, Rajasthan Royals could feasibly field a seam attack of Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Jaydev Unadkat, Oshane Thomas and Dhawal Kulkarni. That’s a serious attack, capable of taking wickets on different surfaces, with raw pace and swing – and with the benefit of Unadkat’s change of angle.
When it comes to balancing the team, Rajasthan should be comfortable. With Archer, Stokes, Gopal, Binny and Gowtham all available to offer plenty of bowling as well as strong hitting, finding enough bowling options shouldn’t be an issue for the Jaipur franchise.
Whilst Thomas and Sodhi will stay for the duration, Rajasthan will certainly lose Buttler and Stokes, and potentially Archer, Smith and Turner. That’s a hefty blow to take, the rise of Turner amplifying an already established problem with their list.
Sanju Samson is a very solid performer, but other than that they’re in trouble on the domestic front. Ajinkya Rahane may be a very experienced international, but he can only play in a certain way – solid, secure batting but essentially unexplosive. Gopal and Vohra can do a job but they are unlikely to be match-winners. Rajasthan desperately need Tripathi to replicate his brilliant season for RPS in 2017. It was a weakness that was exposed last season, as Rajasthan’s Indian batsman averaged less and scored more slowly than all but one other team. It needed to be addressed in the auction, and it wasn’t.
Middle Overs Batting
Last year Rajasthan really struggled to keep the scoring rate ticking in the middle of the innings, scoring more slowly than every other team in the competition. Partly this was due to several high profile failings against spin (Stokes and Short averaged 13.85 and 11 against slow bowling last year), which built pressure, but also the nature of their home ground makes it hard for even the best players to score quickly – the scoring rate of 7.81rpo at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium was the second lowest of any venue.
Key Player: Jos Buttler
Last year’s IPL was a watershed for Jos Buttler. His run of outstanding form in the 2018 tournament catapulted him into the England Test team, and he’s barely looked back since then. His summer against India in the Test series was superb, and he’s backed that up in Sri Lanka on spinning surfaces. Rajasthan more likely than not need him to step up and perform if they’re to trouble the scorers beyond 180, even with Stokes and Gowtham there to provide the flourish at the end of the innings. Last year, they were the second fastest scoring team in the Powerplay, largely down to Buttler’s fireworks at the top. One advantage they do have this season is that they can start the season with Buttler in his rightful place at the top of the order, and hope that he’ll hit the ground running.
1 Rahane (c)
2 Buttler (k)
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.