The 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League auctions were all about franchises plugging their holes for the upcoming edition before the mega-auction takes place in 2021. Rajasthan Royals had plenty of holes to fill for the upcoming season, especially after they had traded off their regular opening batsman and former captain Ajinkya Rahane.
Royals, who shelled out Rs 14.15 crore at the auction made two interesting choices as far as openers are concerned. While they opted for the experience of Robin Uthappa, they also went for the latest teenage batting sensation in Yashasvi Jaiswal. David Miller was also racked by the Royals but with Buttler, Smith, Stokes, and Archer already locked in, it seems highly unlikely that Miller will get much game-time.
As far as the bowling is concerned, besides regaining Jaydev Unadkat for Rs 3 Crore and uncapped Indian bowlers liker Akash Singh and Karthik Tyagi, the Royals packed their bowling unit with overseas players like Andrew Tye, Oshane Thomas, and Tom Curran, and it will be interesting to see how they’ll slot either of them in the playing 11, given how strong the overseas contingent already.
Here’s the predicted XI for Rajasthan Royals-
1. Jos Buttler (WK)
When on a song [which is generally is], there is no better site than watching England’s swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler absolutely tee off and lay into the opposition bowlers with disdain. And, it has been a norm for the past two years whenever Buttler has turned up on the ground in the Pink colours of the Rajasthan Royals.
It all started in the 2018 IPL when the think-tank of the Rajasthan Royals decided to promote Buttler at the top of the order midway through the season. And, the rest, as they say, is history. The wicketkeeper-batsman not only annihilated the opposition bowlers, but he made sure he did that consistently. The right-hander racked up five consecutive half-centuries, and such was the impact of his performances that Butter ended up regaining his Test spot in the English side.
And, so talking about the upcoming edition of the IPL, it is a no-brainer that the stylish English International will open the batting for the inaugural season champions.
2. Robin Uthappa
For a long time, fans were accustomed to seeing Ajinkya Rahane walking out to open the innings for Rajasthan Royals. But, that will all change in the upcoming season, as Rahane- the former captain- is no longer a part of the Royals’ set-up. Rajasthan made a couple of interesting choices at the auctions. They opted for the upcoming precocious talent in the form of Yashasvi Jaiswal besides bidding successfully for veteran IPL batsman Robin Uthappa.
Uthappa was released by Kolkata Knight Riders following a lean IPL season last year, but the reasoning behind picking Uthappa, according to Rajasthan Royals Head-of-Cricket Zubin Barucha, was that the Karnataka batsman brings in a wealth of experience to the table. And, the Royals might start with Uthappa as Butler’s opening partner in the initial part of the tournament.
3. Sanju Samson
He may not be getting the opportunities to play for the national side, but there is little doubt that no playing 11 of the Rajasthan Royals can ever be completed without the inclusion of Kerala’s Sanju Samson.
Samson, who recently stroked the First-Class hundred against Bengal, racked up the fastest double-hundred in the Vijay-Hazare List-A tournament, one that earned him a national call-up. However, Samson has not been able to break into the playing 11, and with the T20 World Cup coming up, the swashbuckling Kerala batsman will be looking to assert his credentials with a whirlwind season with the bat for the Royals.
4. Steven Smith (Captain)
Steve Smith missed the 2018 season due to his ball-tampering ban, but the former Australian captain was back into the leadership role at the backend of last years’ edition and will start the upcoming season as the leader of the pack.
Apart from leading the side to a possible playoff berth, Smith will be looking to contribute with the bat and come into the reckoning as one of the best white-ball batsmen too. He showed that glimpse in the recently concluded T20I series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka and the Royals will hope that he carries that similar sort of form which he displayed in Australia’s home summer in the 13th edition of the IPL.
5. Ben Stokes
2019 was the year of Ben Stokes whether it was ODI cricket or Test match cricket. The BBC Sports Personality of the year 2019, Ben Stokes did- not once, but twice- what normal players fantasize of. Not only did the English all-rounder led his side to World Cup glory thanks to his brilliant innings, but he also proceeded to play a once-in-a-lifetime inning of 153* to bring his side back from what looked like a certain death against Australia in the Ashes.
But, for all his exploits in International cricket, Stokes has now endured two back-to-back ordinary IPL campaigns. After a hugely successful season in 2017 for the Rising Pune SuperGiant, the English all-rounder hasn’t been able to make the same impact- with bat or ball- in the succeeding editions.
The last season, in particular, was forgettable for Stokes. In nine games, the all-rounder could only manage 123 runs at an average of 20.50 and six wickets at an average of 31.50 and an economy of 11.22. The upcoming season will be critical for Stokes and the all-rounder would be hoping to emulate his 2017 exploit for the Royals.
6. Riyan Parag
The 18-year-old batting all-rounder shot into the reckoning, following a string of consistent performances in domestic cricket. Parag, who was the leading run-scorer for Assam in last years’ Vijay-Hazare Trophy, was racked up by the Rajasthan Royals in the 2018-19 IPL auctions.
And, the all-rounder showed why he is one the highly-rated youngster in the last edition when at the age of 17 years and 175 days, he became the youngest cricketer to score a half-century in the history of the IPL. In seven games, Parag scored 160 runs at an average of 32 and a strike-rate 126.98.
7. Shreyas Gopal
From bamboozling the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers to bowling match-winning to taking an IPL hat-trick, Shreyas Gopal has done it all for the Rajasthan Royals in the past two seasons.
The right-arm leg-spinner has emerged as the bedrock of the Royals’ bowling unit in the past two years. Especially in 2019. In what was another disappointing campaign, Gopal was one of the few shining lights for the Royals, as he ended up with 20 wickets in 14 games at an average of 17.35 and a strike-rate of 14.40. Gopal will once spearhead the spin-bowling department in the upcoming edition.
8. Jofra Archer
Jofra Archer- Rajasthan Royals answer to their death bowling issues. The lanky fast bowler has enough variations like the slower to go along with his deadly pace and of-course the yorker at his disposal, to make him one of the best exponents of death-over bowling in T20 cricket.
In the past two editions, Archer has emerged as the spearhead of the fast bowling unit, having claimed 15 and 11 wickets at an average of 21.66 and 26.45 respectively. And, the Royals will be expecting or at least hoping for much for the same in the upcoming edition.
9. Mayank Markande
The Punjab leg-spinner made splashes during his debut IPL season for the Mumbai Indians when he flummoxed the likes of Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, with his wrong’un.
However, following a lean second season, the leg-spinner was traded off by the Mumbai Indians. But, with the Royals having released Krishnappa Gowtham, Markande could get a lot more opportunities than he got with Mumbai. And, if given the opportunity to play at the beginning of the season, the leggie must make it count, for there is Rahul Tewatia waiting in the wing.
10. Javdev Unadkat
Rajasthan Royals love story with Jaydev Unadkat. After buying the left-arm pacer for a record Rs 11.5 Crore in 2018 before releasing and then re-buying him again for Rs 8.42 Crore in 2019. And, surprise, surprise, they did it again. After releasing Unadkat ahead of the 2020 Auctions, the Royals bought back the left-arm pacer for Rs 3 Crore.
To be fair, anyone can get bogged down with the pressure of such a high payout. And this is what exactly happened with Jaydev in the past two seasons. With that pressure firmly off his shoulders, the Royals will hope that Unadkat shrugs off the ignominy of the past two seasons and return to doing what he did for the Rising Pune SuperGiant or has always done in domestic cricket- taking wickets.
11. Varun Aaron
When he gets his line and length right, Varun Aaron- with the kind of pace he generates- can be a handful for any batting unit. Aaron was reduced to warming the bench for a major chunk of the 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League. But, when he did get his opportunity, the Jharkhand bowler showed as to why he can be the X-factor in the Royals’ bowling.
Aaron won the Player of the Match for his match-winning spell of 2-20 against Kolkata Knight Riders, and in totality, claimed four wickets in five games at an average of 29.0 and a strike-rate of 18.00, and he could well start in the starting XI, ahead of the uncapped bowlers in Akash Singh, Karthik Tyagi.
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