Right from the time they won the inaugural edition of the IPL in 2008, with a team assembled on a shoestring and full of youngsters along with a few big names; Rajasthan Royals have always been regarded as this team of underdogs who manage to have a real go at their opponents with far more expensively assembled teams.
What is even more heartening that they manage to unearth one gem after another who have gone on to become some of the biggest names in the IPL and indeed in world cricket. If it was Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan in 2008, then it was Ajinkya Rahane in 2012 and Sanju Samson or the 42 year old leg spinner Pravin Tambe in 2013. They have a brilliant scouting network in India and along with sensible purchases at the auction they make sure that they are a team who can always be a team that is extremely hard to beat.
Shane Watson (c), Ankit Sharma, Brainder Sran, Rajat Bhatia, Stuart Binny, Ben Cutting, James Faulkner, Deepak Hooda, Dhawal Kulkarni, Vikramjeet Malik, Chris Morris, Karun Nair, Abhishek Nayar, Ajinkya Rahane, Pardeep Sahu, Dinesh Salunkhe , Sanju Samson, Steven Smith, Tim Southee, Pravin Tambe, Rahul Tewatia, Rusty Theron, Sagar Trivedi, Dishant Yagnik, Kane Richardson.
Once again you see a mixture of local youngsters, some India stars and established International stars that make up the RR squad but you can’t help but notice where the real strength of the squad lies. The presence of three of the Australians- Steven Smith, Shane Watson and James Faulkner- who recently won the World Cup in 2015 makes this squad one of the very best in the tournament and although they were in the squad last year too, Faulkner and Smith have evolved into world class limited over players. Watson has been one of RR’s biggest stars throughout their time in the IPL and he would once again continue to play a key role, while players like Steven Smith and Faulkner would form the power centre of the team.
Smith is one of the leading batsmen in the world at the moment and the RR batting would revolve around him, while the Indian star Rahane, youngster Sanju Samson and Stuart Binny would rally around him to give the batting the sort of stability that every team wants in the IPL. Additionally, in James Faulkner they have the ideal T20 all rounder, who has the sort of variation that can not only restrict the runs but also result in wickets and as a lower order batsman, he can easily score at more than 15 an over, which well and truly makes this side a well rounded one.
Now, what is rather underrated in their squad is the bowling depth within the ranks and the fact that it is led by the experienced Tim Southee gives the attack the sort of credibility it lacked in the past. Southee is an excellent new ball bowler but even more importantly he can send down yorkers consistently in the slog overs and that makes him an excellent T20 bowler for any team. Dhaval Kulkarni, James Faulkner, Pravin Tambe and Rajat Bhatia are able bowlers from among whom the management can pick a fairly well-knit bowling unit. Overall, the team looks in good shape and with a bit of luck can go a long way in the tournament.
You might have felt that the Royals are perhaps devoid of any weaknesses after reading through the ‘strengths’ section here but if you have a look at how they are going to set up then there is a bit of a worry about the two openers and although it is not a glaring weakness; it can turn out to be one if Rahane and Samson fail to get the team off to the sort of starts they are supposed to. Although
both are hugely talented batsmen, there is a bit of a worry whether Samson can stand up to the challenge thrown by truly elite fast bowlers and Rahane’s poor form by the end of the World Cup is a worry as well. The Indian star did not look his usual fluent self by the time the tournament ended and if the openers fail to get the innings off to a good start then all the quality in the batting line up could end up being wasted.
Key Players: –
Even though he has not been in any kind of form of late, the role of Ajinkya Rahane is vital for the RR batting line up since being one of the top performers for RR over the years and their opener he has to give the team a good start in order to make sure that the team can make a good score more often than not.
However, the mantle of the batting line up rests on the preeminent young batsman in the world-Steven Smith- who is not only capable of taking apart any bowler on his day but also has the capability of soaking up the pressure in high stakes games. In that regard, he would be the player who would often decide the sort of total RR end up with.
Among the bowlers, Tim Southee is certainly one of the most important operators due to his ability to swing the new ball and also his accuracy in the slog overs. These three players will most certainly be the pillars of strength if RR are to go far in the IPL in 2015.
Pravin Tambe, the 43 year old leg spinner whom no batsman can really get after due to his variations of pace and this is the bowler who could often prove to be the secret weapon in the RR.
By: Soham Samaddar