Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Rajasthan Royals looks capable of reclaiming the crown it once wore

Buttler will look to lead from the front.

Buttler will look to lead from the front.
| Photo Credit: PTI

Rajasthan Royals has contested the IPL final only twice. Fourteen years separated those two title-clashes.

After emerging surprise winner of the inaugural edition, the next four seasons saw Royals going out in the league stage. When Royals reached the final last year, it marked the end of a long wait for fans.

They were, however, in for a big disappointment, as Royals went down to Hardik Pandya’s Gujarat Titans, which emerged champion in its maiden season. Yet, for a team that had not qualified for the playoffs in three previous years, making the final was an achievement to be proud of.

Ten months later, the Royals should be in a confident frame of mind as they gear up for a new season of cricket’s biggest soap opera. The unavailability of seamer Prasidh Krishna, because of injury, is a concern — he was the side’s second highest wicket-taker last year — and it would be interesting to see how the team management addresses the issue.

The new Impact Player rule may lessen the negative impact.

No replacement has been announced yet for Prasidh, and pictures of Sandeep Sharma apparently in Jaipur have got social media wondering. Obed McCoy has definitely joined the Royals camp, ending the speculation in the wake of his omission from the West Indies team for the T20I series against South Africa.

Milestone beckons Boult

The Royals pace attack will be spearheaded by Trent Boult, the excellent left-arm quick from New Zealand who should be looking to take his 100th IPL wicket (he needs only eight more). Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Sen, Kuldip Yadav and K.M. Asif are the options for coach Kumar Sangakkara in the absence of Prasidh.

As for spin, the Royals boast arguably the IPL’s most formidable pair in R. Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal, the winner of the purple cap last year with 27 wickets. The slow bowling department is further strengthened by Adam Zampa — he could not have timed his four-wicket haul for Australia against India at Chennai better — and M. Ashwin.

The batting oozes class. Royals will want Jos Buttler to bat the way he did last season, in which he won the orange cap in some style. Yashasvi Jaiswal, the left-handed opener who has been on fire in the domestic season, could be the ideal foil for the England superstar. The Mumbai batter had done well in the last IPL and his current form suggests he could very well do better.

Runs are expected to flow freely and majestically from skipper Sanju Samson’s bat yet again. He will want to lead from the front once more.

Classy back-up

Devdutt Padikkal offers assuredness, while Shimron Hetmyer can be explosive as a finisher. There is class in the back-up, too — Joe Root, who may have surprised many with his strike rate in the recent International League T20.

Jason Holder and Riyan Parag can contribute with their all-round skills.

In short, Rajasthan Royals has the team to aim for a place in the playoffs and beyond.

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