BENGALURU: Rajasthan Royals have one of the best set of overseas players in the IPL. A deeper look, and of the eight foreigners, four of them are from England, including Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Liam Livingstone and Jofra Archer, who are all genuine-match winners. The first three provide a special English base in the batting department while the out-and-out pacer, who is nursing an elbow injury, could join the team later in the tournament.
After their readmission into the IPL fold in 2018, Rajasthan have built their side around the English trio of Stokes, Buttler and Archer, with Livingstone being their latest addition. Apart from the latter, the others have been integral to England’s white-ball revolution. Any team with these players should be counted among the favourites to lift the title, but they have only underachieved, finishing fourth, seventh and eighth since 2018.
Ahead of the 14th edition, Rajasthan took the bold decision to release Steve Smith into the auction pool, a move that raised a few eyebrows. But it could end up being a blessing in disguise for a side that is looking to photo-copy England’s model which is to play fearless cricket. In that sense, the decision to hand over the captaincy to Sanju Samson appears a move in the right direction. Although he is inexperienced with regards to captaincy, Samson fits their bill of being a captain who encourages fearless approach. Never one to hold back, Samson’s blow hot and cold style has been frustrating, but there is no denying he is the closest in Rajasthan’s camp to endorse England’s model.
“Yes, I think this format demands that kind of an attitude actually… we like to believe that everyone is thinking with almost the same mindset. Every player you mentioned (Stokes, Buttler, Livingstone), their mindset is almost the same, to go out there and play some good cricket and enjoy their fearless attitude. That is what we will stick to it and that is also the same thing, which the tournament demands,” said Samson in a virtual media interaction.
Buttler and Stokes are known for their explosive approach and the duo had a good run with the bat last season too. If the wicket-keeper batsman scored 328 runs with a strike rate of 144, the all-rounder managed 285 (142.50 S/R). Meanwhile Livingstone, who has hit 123 T20s sixes since 2019, will be keen to make up for his IPL record, which reads 71 runs in 4 IPL games so far. Even in that 71, 30 runs have come via sixes.
Throw in Samson, Rahul Tewatia, Shivam Dube in the batting mix, the Indian contingent can inflict damage on the opposition. With such firepower, playing their first five matches in Mumbai, which assists batsmen, suit them perfectly. However, the pace and aggression of Archer will be sorely missed, at least, in the first half of the season.
The 26-year-old was Royals’ highest-wicket taker last season with 20 wickets and they will have to depend on Chris Morris, Andrew Tye, Jaydev Unadkat among others now. “Jofra is a vital part of our makeup and not to have him around unfortunately is the reality of it. We have to plan around it and have contingencies in place....We are hoping at some point that he will join the team and be able to play some part in the IPL,” said Royals’ director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara.
Big money signings across both Rajasthan Royals and Punjab Kings will look to impress in their first outings. Here’s a look at some talking points from their game on Monday...
Change of captain
The RR management has given Sanju Samson a massive task and it will be interesting to see how he goes. Their combination at the top and end overs bowling let them down last season, even if Jofra Archer won MVP. How the team shape up without Archer for the first two or so weeks at least and how they use the new signings will be the first real look at Samson’s captaincy world view.
Big signings galore
Jhye Richardson. Riley Meredith. Chris Morris. Punjab Kings could possibly have two IPL debutants in the bowling department. It was one of their big weaknesses and they seem to have strengthened it considerably. It will also be interesting to see if KL Rahul who was conservative with his shots will be a bit more expansive with his game. Morris’ death overs nous will add needed subtlety to RR’s death overs.