With key players like Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Jos Butler missing, the Royals and Sanju Samson find themselves in a situation they aren’t familiar with.
Winners of the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League under then-captain and current coach Shane Warne, the Rajasthan Royals have been searching for that winning formula ever since. Following their two-year ban, the Royals made it to the playoffs, finishing fourth in the 2018 campaign, before a string of poor recruitments, both on and off the field, derailed their bid to establish the franchise among the front runners for the championship.
Built on a strong English core and a young bunch of domestic players, Sanju Samson was tasked with leading the side after Steven Smith was released during the 2021 mini-auction. There were big changes off the field as well, with legendary Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batter Kumar Sangakkara stepping in as the new Director of Cricket following Andrew McDonald’s departure.
However, just before the IPL season kicked off, the Royals were dealt a major blow when the leader of their bowling attack, Jofra Archer, pulled out of the tournament following injuries to his bowling arm.
Also Read – 2021 Indian Premier League: Resumption Rules
Squad: Sanju Samson (c & wk), Akash Singh, Anuj Rawat, KC Cariappa, Gerald Coetzee, Shivam Dube, Shreyas Gopal, Yashaswi Jaiswal, Kartik Tyagi, Evin Lewis, Mahipal Lomror, Mayank Markande, David Miller, Chris Morris, Mustafizur Rahman, Riyan Parag, Glenn Philips, Chetan Sakariya, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rahul Tewatia, Oshane Thomas, Jaydev Unadkat, Manan Vohra, Kuldip Yadav.
Withdrawn: Jofra Archer, Jos Butler, Liam Livingston, Ben Stokes, Andrew Tye.
Let’s take a look at the Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Threats (SWOT) of the Rajasthan Royals.
Well, to be honest, I don’t see much in this side which I can pass on to millions of RR supporters. Their over-reliance on foreign marquee players and the lack of a dependable Indian core has really exposed the glaring holes inside that Rajasthan camp. Following Jofra Archer’s absence, the Director of Cricket for ECB, Ashley Giles, earlier in May, stated that English players were unlikely to feature during the second leg of the 2021 IPL season, meaning players like Jos Butler, Liam Livingstone and Ben Stokes would all miss the second half resuming this 19th of September.
Although the England and Wales Cricket Board and the BCCI have arrived at an amicable agreement, the above-mentioned trio are still unlikely to feature after Jos Butler pulled out of the competition citing personal reasons while Ben Stokes is yet to return from his cricketing sabbatical. Liam Livingstone, Rajasthan’s only hope, recently got injured playing for Lancashire and is doubtful for the trip to the UAE.
After taking captaincy duties, Sanju Samson has shown a mature side to his game. The Keralite has scored 277 runs from seven matches at an average of 46 and a strike rate of 145.78. Although Jos Butler’s 254 runs will be dearly missed, both Shivam Dube (145 runs) and David Miller (102 runs) looked in decent touch and will have to bring their A-game to the fore in order to salvage anything with this depleted batting unit.
Rajasthan’s top-order and frontline bowlers will be a major cause for concern. Jos Butler scored those 254 runs from the top of the order, laying a foundation, which helped people like Sanju Samson, Shivam Dube or even Chris Morris to walk in and hit the accelerator. With the key figure of Jos Butler missing, Rajasthan have traded in Kiwi wicketkeeper-batter Glenn Phillips as a like-for-like replacement for the Englishman. And it won’t be a surprise if we see Samson opening the batting with Yashaswi Jaiswal.
Chris Morris, to his credit, has lived up to his price tag of INR 16.25 crore. The South African all-rounder has taken 14 wickets from the first seven games while making valuable contributions with the bat. Morris was brought in to work in tandem with Jofra Archer, but with both Archer and Stokes missing, Morris is expected to do the hard yards.
The biggest cause for concern for the Rajasthan Royals management will be extracting the maximum from their Indian pace trio. Chetan Sakariya (7), Jaydev Unadkat (4), and Kartik Tyagi (1) have failed – even when combined – to match Morris’ wicket-tally, while RR’s spin attack barring Shreyas Gopal lacks the penetration and guile to trouble most opposition batters.
In Jos Butler’s absence, Yashasvi Jaiswal has a golden opportunity to make that opening slot his own. Jaiswal had a terrible 2020 season after a promising start and the highly-rated opener will be eager to make the most of the opportunity coming his way.
Chris Morris, David Miller and Mustafizur Rahman are almost guaranteed as the three primary overseas choices, and it will be interesting to see how the Royals management chooses to bolster their playing XI with that fourth overseas player.
Although Rajasthan will miss Jos Butler, and there’s no like-for-like replacement for him in terms of output, a certain Caribbean, Evin Lewis, can be given a proper run into the side. Moreover, he is equally adept at opening or being the first aggressor as a #3 or a #4.
Even before the season began, most fans and pundits were sceptical about Sanju Samson leading an inexperienced Rajasthan Royals side. And in his first seven matches, there have been some positives to take, while some of his decisions have been questionable as well. Samson is learning on the job and it won’t be fair to single him out partly due to the fractured side he has at his disposal and this being his first major assignment of leading a franchise.
Rajasthan are currently sitting in fifth position with three wins from their seven fixtures, but with a lack of leadership in and around the team, one to two embarrassing defeats early on can lead to an implosion, in my opinion.
That said, we do have a mega-auction coming up next season, and if Rajasthan stick with Sanju Samson as the leader of the pack, it’ll be interesting to see how he builds his team up. But with this current crop of players, making the playoffs is a dream far-fetched.