Rajasthan Royals (RR) have always been one of the most underrated teams in the history of the IPL. They’ve never had the favourites tag nor have they hogged the spotlight a lot. In fact, even when they returned from a two-year hiatus, the focus was largely on Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) comeback. There was hardly anyone talking about RR.
However, they always seem to punch above their weight. That’s what they did in their comeback season (2018) as well. No one expected them to be anywhere near the top four but they made it to the playoffs. But they had a disappointing season this year. They won just five games and finished second last.
The star players couldn’t really stand up and deliver. However, things could’ve been different if they played red-ball cricket. Thus, here we have a small twist. Here we bring you Rajasthan Royals’ strongest XI if they had played Test cricket in 2019.
1. Prashant Chopra
Prashant Chopra. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Prashant Chopra might not be a familiar name around Indian cricketing circles. He has played only a couple of games for the Rajasthan Royals (RR). He made his IPL debut last year and played only one game this year.
However, he has been a quiet performer for Madhya Pradesh in domestic cricket. The right-handed opener came into the limelight during the Under 19 World Cup in 2012. He scored three half-centuries in India’s title-winning campaign.
He went on to make his first-class debut later that year. Since then, Chopra has been a regular member of the Himachal Pradesh side. He has played 49 first-class games and averages 43.37. The 26-year-old has also done well in List ‘A’ cricket. In fact, he has been in and around the India ‘A’ side as well. Hence, he is a solid option at the top of the order as far as red-ball cricket is concerned.
2. Sanju Samson
Sanju Samson. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Right from when he was a teenager, Sanju Samson attracted a lot of people with his impressive strokeplay. He has been a regular member of the IPL over the last few years. But it’s been more of flashes of brilliance than consistency from the Kerala player.
He is another player who has come through the ranks from Under 19 cricket. Samson played the Under 19 World Cup in 2014 and was India’s leading run-getter. He was under the spot from that time. However, he hasn’t quite made it big so far in his career.
Samson has a solid technique and is a very fluent player. However, it’s been a frustrating career so far for the right-hander. He has played a lot of domestic cricket over the last few years but hasn’t been able to find consistency in any format. Samson averages almost 37 and has scored nine first-class hundreds. Despite not breaking the door down with his long-form performances, Samson seems to be the best option for opening the batting if Rajasthan Royals were to play red-ball cricket.
3. Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo by RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty Images)
Ajinkya Rahane has been a crucial part of the Rajasthan Royals side. He has constantly been around the leadership group and has also been the captain, on and off. However, he bats at the top in white-ball cricket and in the middle in the longest format.
Over the last couple of years, Rahane has struggled a touch in Test cricket. It took two years for him to get a three-figure score. However, he has looked in good nick and seems to have returned to his best at the moment. He played a couple of excellent knocks in the first Test against West Indies.
Rahane has a sound technique and play both spin and pace equally well. Also, he has performed consistently in the past and was India’s reliable batsman in the middle. Moreover, he will be one of the options for captaincy. Rahane has led India whenever Kohli has been out and has done well.
4. Steve Smith
Steve Smith. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Steve Smith is arguably the best batsman in Test cricket in the world. The former Aussie skipper can do no wrong at the moment. The bowlers have found it difficult to break Smith’s defence and the Australian has piled a mountain of runs.
He averages a stunning 64.81 in Test cricket which is the second-best after the great Sir Don Bradman. The 29-year-old can bat and do that for long periods of time. He can rack up big scores and can be the rock of the team.
Smith has been a big part of the Rajasthan Royals team over the last few years. Even when he was banned, they didn’t let him go and helped him make a return last season. He has an up and down season but he found some fluency towards the fag end. Moreover, Smith is a very good tactician and hence, will be a great choice as captain.
5. Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes. (Photo Source: Twitter)
At the moment, there is nothing Ben Stokes cannot do. Everything he touches turns into gold. He was the hero for England in the World Cup final and he pulled England out of the dumps to help them pull off a heist. Not to forget his bowling. He bowls his heart out every time he has the ball in his hand.
Thus, Stokes will walk into any side solely on his batting or bowling skills as well. He has been England’s best player in the recent past. He hasn’t had the best of times in the Rajasthan Royals’ colours. He has had a rather underwhelming time with the Royals.
However, he’s been in some fabulous form in the longest format. Stokes will be the side’s premier all-rounder. Moreover, he has the game to bat on any surface and also can be effective with the ball at any stage of the game.
6. Jos Buttler
Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler. (Photo Source: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)
Jos Buttler will most likely don the gloves in this side. Sanju Samson is another option but Buttler may be the preferred option. The 28-year-old England star hasn’t really been in the best of forms in the recent past. He played a fighting inning in the World Cup final but hasn’t really found his flow in the longest format.
However, Buttler has performed for England consistently in the past. He made a successful return to red-ball cricket last year and has been a regular member of the England Test side since. He may average a middling 32.90 in Test cricket but in 2018, he scored 760 runs at an average of 44.60. He was one of England’s consistent batsmen last year. Hence, Buttler is an excellent choice at No. 6.
7. Shreyas Gopal
Shreyas Gopal. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Shreyas Gopal is arguably one of the most underrated cricketers in Indian domestic circles. The leg-spinning all-rounder can bat, bowl and do anything you can ask on a cricket field. He has an average of 35.75 with the bat and 26.19 with the ball in first-class cricket.
Moreover, he has been a critical part of the Karnataka side across all three formats for the last few years. He was Rajasthan’s best bowler in the last season. Gopal picked up 20 wickets at an average of 17.35. In fact, he has this excellent knack of dismissing the best players in the opposition.
The 25-year-old Banglaore lad has constantly been in and around the India ‘A’ side and has also done well. Thus, Gopal will be the lead spinner as far as red-ball cricket is concerned for Rajasthan Royals. He can be effective in all three departments and will definitely be a big asset in the longest format.
8. Krishnappa Gowtham
Krishnappa Gowtham. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Here is another Karnataka cricketer who has done well in the recent past. Krishnappa Gowtham has been quietly churning out performances in all three formats in domestic cricket. However, he didn’t have a great IPL this year. He barely contributed with the bat or ball.
But apart from the IPL, he has done well. He’s having a dream season in the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) this time. Moreover, he has done well for India ‘A’ as well. He picked up a couple of five-wicket hauls in the Caribbean recently. After going wicketless in the first of the three games, he stormed back with 12 wickets in the next two games.
Gowtham did well in the domestic season as well last year. He picked up 20 wickets in the five Ranji games he played. He was Karnataka’s leading wicket-taker in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Moreover, he can be handy with the bat lower down the order. Thus, he will partner his Karnataka teammate Shreyas Gopal in the spin department.
9. Jofra Archer
Jofra Archer. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
It’s been barely four months since Jofra Archer’s international debut and he’s already taken the world by storm. Everybody knew what he was capable of but the impact he’s had on England cricket in such a short period of time is remarkable. He has played just 18 international games so far but has already taken 39 wickets (16 from two Tests, 23 from 14 ODIs and two from a lone T20I).
For the last couple of years, Archer has been Rajasthan Royals’ premier fast bowler. He played a lot of T20 cricket all over the world which overshadowed his red-ball exploits. Archer has a brilliant first-class record. He averages 23.05 with the ball and nearly 30 with the bat.
Hence, Archer’s inclusion is a no-brainer. He will take the new ball and try to wreak havoc and create the same impact as he’s done for England. Moreover, he will surely be one of the fastest bowlers around.
10. Dhawal Kulkarni
Dhawal Kulkarni. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Dhawal Kulkarni may have faded away in the recent past but he is one of those fast bowlers who has churned out performances season after season in domestic cricket. He has been a vital part of the Mumbai side for almost a decade now.
Kulkarni has been a part of the Rajasthan Royals set-up for a while now. He played 10 games in the last season but wasn’t too effective. The 30-year-old pacer has the ability to move the ball and trouble the batsmen. He may not have a lot of pace but accuracy is his strength.
Hence, he might share the new ball along with Jofra Archer. His ability to keep things tight may allow Archer to attack from the other end and the two may just compliment each other well.
11. Varun Aaron
Varun Aaron. (Photo Source: Twitter)
When Varun Aaron first burst on to the scene, there was a lot of excitement. At that time, India hardly produced pacers who could bowl quick. Thus, Aaron was one of the rare bowlers who could bowl over 140 kmph regularly.
However, consistency was the biggest problem. Aaron was wayward and often lost control. Hence, he was constantly in and out of the side and then, eventually dropped. He played just nine ODIs and nine Tests for India. The last time he turned out for the national team was in November 2015.
However, the 29-year-old fast bowler has done well in domestic cricket. He picked up 25 wickets from seven games in the Ranji Trophy last season. He did well in white-ball cricket too. Moreover, Aaron had a decent impact towards the fag end of the IPL last season. Thus, he can be the third fast bowler in the side.
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