After finishing bottom in 2020, Rajasthan has ambitions of climbing to the top with a new captain and director of cricket, and IPL’s most expensive player ever
It has been a chequered journey for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. It was the champion — against all odds — in the inaugural edition in 2008. Last season, it finished at the bottom.
So this time around, things can only get better for the team, which is sporting a different look. It has a new captain in Sanju Samson, a new director of cricket in Kumar Sangakkara, the most expensive player in IPL history in Chris Morris, not to mention additions such as Shivam Dube and Liam Livingstone; and there is no Steve Smith, the skipper for most of the last two seasons.
While the Royals management has had time to think about re-jigging the top-order in the absence of the Australian run-machine, it probably would not have been prepared for the huge vacuum created by the unavailability of Jofra Archer, at least for the initial stages. The England star — as complete a fast-bowler as a T20 team could hope for — had surgery on his right hand on Monday.
Archer was not just the Royals’ best cricketer last year, he was also the IPL’s best — he was adjudged the Most Valuable Player. His deadly spells were the main reason why his team was in with a chance of making the playoffs even at the business end.
In Archer’s absence, Morris will have to spearhead the attack. The South African quick must be hoping to receive support in the pace department from the likes of Kartik Tyagi, who had impressed in his maiden IPL last year, Jaydev Unadkat, Mustafizur Rahman and Andrew Tye.
All-rounders Ben Stokes and Dube could also chip in with a few overs of pace. Leg-spinning all-rounders Rahul Tewatia, a revelation last year, and Shreyas Gopal could have important roles to play. Royals will need big shots to fly off the blades of Jos Buttler, Samson — it will be interesting to see how captaincy impacts his batting — and Stokes. There is quality in the support cast of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Riyan Parag, David Miller, Livingstone, Mahipal Lomror and Manan Vohra, too.
If the Royals need inspiration or words of wisdom, they have Sangakkara to turn to. If the man can offer so much in his commentary stints, imagine what he could do in team meetings! Could Samson and Sangakkara turn Royals’ fortunes around? We will find out in a few weeks.