After clinching the title in the initial edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the journey of Rajasthan Royals has been like a roller-coaster ride. From pinnacle to a dip and later a tainted phase due to match-fixing, the Jaipur-based franchise has seen in all in one decade.
Making a return in the eleventh edition of the cash-rich league, to be held in April this year, Rajasthan see hope in foreign cricketers, especially Australians as in 2008, it was Shane Warne who led the camp to the crown and this time it’s his fellow countryman Steve Smith, who has all the responsibility on his shoulders.
Often considered as ‘The Moneyball’ franchise of the IPL, Rajasthan have never been short of fund. In fact, the blue army is known for digging up incomprehensible young and exciting cricketing talent, paying the right price.
For the upcoming season, like every other side, Rajasthan Royals were given a chance to retain up to three players ahead of the IPL Auction, scheduled to be held in Bengaluru on January 27-28. Adding to this, every team is allowed to retain up to two players, using a ‘Right To Match’ card during the auction event.
Rajasthan retained only one player in the shape of Steve Smith, a renowned Aussie face in India, who just like Warne may lead the side to the glory on their return to the league after two years.
Utilisation of Steve Smith in Rajasthan Royals
Having played for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS), Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Pune Warriors apart from Rajasthan in the previous editions of the IPL, the 28-year-old right-hander has been dissolved to the Indian cricket set-up very well. His knowledge and familiarity with the Indian pitches have been increased remarkably and it shows in his confident performances on Indian soil.
In addition to his impressive batting skills, captaincy is something that makes him a star in the Indian T20 league. In 2017, Smith was chosen over India’s World Cup-winning captain MS Dhoni to lead RPS. Under his captaincy, RPS ended the season being runners-up, losing the trophy with just one run.
The confidence was seen flowing in the club as star all-rounder Ben Stokes, who was bought for whopping 14 crore by RPS, scored 316 runs and claimed 12 wickets to win the player-of-the-series award.
So far, Smith has played 69 IPL matches and scored 1703 runs at a remarkable strike rate of 131.71. He also has an IPL century under his name, his league-best 101, which he scored against Gujarat Lions in 2016.
Players for whom Rajasthan may use ‘Right To Match’ card
Besides Smith, there are some players who may add weapons to their armory. On the top, there is India batsman Ajinkya Rahane, who can open the innings and play in the middle-order as well. In 2017, Rahane led the Purple camp RPS to many wins singlehandedly.
In all-round strength, local but experienced Rajat Bhatia and Australian sensation James Faulkner will be a good option to be retained using RTM card. Bowlers Ankit Sharma and Dhawal Kulkarni have also displayed tremendous grit for Rajasthan in past and thus, have a chance to be retained by the franchise.