IPL 2021 | With Sanju Samson at helm, can Rajasthan Royals overcome last year’s woes?


Rajasthan Royals’ new skipper Sanju Samson

There was a clamour for change when Rajasthan Royals finished at the bottom of the points table in last year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) edition, which followed the franchise parting ways with skipper Steve Smith.


After looking promising in the early stage of the tournament, putting up big totals and making the best use of the UAE conditions. The team, however, floundered towards the end. In search of consistency, the Royals ultimately slumped to the eighth position and finished with the wooden spoon, falling behind Chennai Super Kings in terms of Net Run Rate.  


Royals decided to splurge cash on Morris, Dube



In a bid to clinch second title, the Royals let go of Smith, promoting Sanju Samson as their new skipper for IPL 2021. Apart from Smith, players like Ankit Rajpoot, Oshane Thomas, Tom Curran and Varun Aaron were also released from the Royals camp. To conceal flaws, the franchise bought eight new players in the mini-auction earlier this year, the most prominent name being Chris Morris. The 33-year-old South African became the most expensive buy (INR 16.25 cr) in IPL history when he was picked by Royals following an intense bidding war.


Apart from pulling off the most expensive purchase in the tournament’s history, the Royals also splurged their money on Shivam Dube and Mustafizur Rahman. While Dube was bought for a hefty price of INR 4.40 cr, Mustafizur went for his base price (INR 1 cr). Royals also got hold of Chetan Sakariya (Rs 1.20 crore), KC Cariappa (Rs 0.20 crore), Liam Livingstone (Rs 0.75 crore), Kuldip Yadav (Rs 0.20 crore) and Akash Singh (Rs 0.20 crore). 


The franchise won’t be equipped with someone like Smith at the top but they’ve plenty of overseas picks to make up for it. Though Yashasvi Jaiswal only featured in three games last year, he can be a game-changer if he gets going in home conditions; there are no two ways about it. The 19-year-old has scored 987 runs in 21 List A games at 51.94, making him a strong candidate for the opening spot alongside Jos Buttler. Royals also have Manan Vohra and skipper Samson to partner Buttler at the start. If Buttler dons the wicketkeeping gloves, Samson could keep his focus on batting and captaincy.  


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Samson, Stokes to bolster batting department



Consistency is something that has troubled Samson. After scoring 159 runs in the first two games of IPL 2020, the prolific batsman managed to score just 77 in the next seven games. Known for his crisp hitting, Samson could play with freedom and cash in on the opportunity at the top of the order. In 14 games last season, Samson notched up 375 runs including three fifties. Vohra, a member of the Under-19 World Cup-winning team led by Umnukt Chand, has plenty of experience under his belt. He could also contribute up the order, having played 49 IPL games and scoring three half-centuries so far.


Ben Stokes will be a vital part of the Royals’ middle-order camp. The all-rounder, in fact, a game-changer, has the ability to single-handedly turn things around. His 52-ball 99 against India in the second ODI was a testament to his skill. 


Another English player — Liam Livingstone — could also squeeze in the Playing XI. The same goes for David Miller, who has been struggling to get game-time in the IPL over the last few years. Livingstone can also be handy at the top. He had a decent campaign for Perth Scorchers in the recent Big Bash League. In 14 matches, he scored 426 runs at an average and strike-rate of 30.42 and 133.96 respectively.


Quality pool of all-rounders



With Jofra Archer likely to miss the initial phase of the tournament, Morris, with his experience in the shorter format, will be heading the bowling unit along with Andrew Tye. The franchise has an excellent pool of all-rounders. Stokes, Shivam Dube, Riyan Parag and Rahul Tewatia — all four have the ability to contribute in both departments. Tewatia, last year, grabbed the headlines with his unbeaten 53 against Kings XI Punjab, including an over where he hammered 30 runs against Sheldon Cottrell. Tewatia ended his impressive season with 255 runs and 10 wickets.

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New recruit Dube could also bat at any position. He himself is eager for some “extra tips” from the Director Of Cricket Kumara Sangakkara on the batting front. “I think, I have played at many positions, so I don’t care much about what I can do, I care much about what teams needs from me,” 27-year-old Dube told PTI in an interview.


In the spin-bowling department, the side has Shreyas Gopal and Mayank Markande in the ranks. In IPL 2020, Gopal had picked up 10 wickets while featuring in all 14 games. 

While Kartik Tyagi could also get a few odd games, Mustafizur Rahman is likely to get game-time due to his ability to bowl in death overs. It will be a toss-up between Tye and Mustafizur for the overseas pacer slot. 

As league stage matches will be played in neutral venues, Royals are set to start off with five matches in Mumbai before moving to Delhi for the next four games. Royals, who had won the inaugural title in 2008, will start their IPL 2021 campaign against Punjab Kings on April 12.


Rajasthan Royals (RR) Full Squad:


Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler, Mahipal Lomror, Manan Vohra, Mayank Markande, Rahul Tewatia, Riyan Parag, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Anuj Rawat, Kartik Tyagi, David Miller, Andrew Tye, Chris Morris, Shivam Dube, Mustafizur Rahman, Chetan Sakariya, KC Cariappa, Liam Livingstone, Kuldip Yadav and Akash Singh


Rajasthan Royals (RR) Predicted Playing XI:


Jos Buttler, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson (C), Ben Stokes, Shivam Dube, Rahul Tewatia, Riyan Parag, Chris Morris, Kartik Tyagi, Shreyas Gopal, Andrew Tye/Mustafizur Rahman

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