Why Rajasthan Royals Are the Dark Horses of the IPL 2020
The 13th edition of the IPL is on. While defending champions, Mumbai Indians, are justifiably the favourites to win the title, we have strong reasons to believe that Rajasthan Royals could lift the trophy this year.
Expectations and Reality
On September 22, Royals took on Chennai Super Kings who were expected to beat a Royals squad without their champion T20 players, Buttler and Stokes. However, reality hit Dhoni’s wards hard when after the loss of the early wicket of young Yashasvi Jaiswal Sanju Samson put on a formidable show of batting that left the bowlers dazed. Despite a lull after Samson’s dismissal, Joffra Archer took the bowling by the scruff in the final over to bat CSK out of the game.
Lessons from the Game
The most obvious lesson was that Royal’s B team was better than Chennai Super Kings, one of the most successful teams in the history of the IPL. Royals also advertised an overall balance of their team, which is strong in every area, with depth in batting and bowling and a good mix of youth and experience. Ten of the 11 players who have featured against CSK can bat more than a bit. While only five bowlers were in action, Smith had a sixth bowling option in Riyan Parag that he did not use. The ideal playing combination after the return of Buttler and Stokes would be Smith, Stokes, Buttler, Archer, Samson, Tewatia, Gopal, Unadkat, Jaiswal, Uthappa and Parag.
Overseas Player Options
Except for not making a play for Trent Boult, Royals used the auction judiciously. If Buttler, Smith, Stokes and Archer are their primary overseas players, they have a batting backup in Miller and bowling backups in Tye, Thomas and Curran, though we would regret the lack of an overseas all-rounder to replace Stokes if the England star got injured.
Among domestic players, Samson, Uthappa, Gopal or Unadkat are unlikely to be replaced if they stay fit. Backups for the remaining players, namely Jaiswal, Tewatia and Parag, abound in the form of equally talented youngsters in the age range of 18 to 21. These are batsmen such as Vohra, Rawat, and Shashank Singh, all-rounder Lomror, who at the age of 19 captains Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy, and bowlers Kartik Tyagi and Akash Singh. Royals also have a few older domestic players with IPL experience such as leg-break bowler Markande, pace bowler Aaron and all-rounder Aniruddha Joshi. In other words, they have all their bases covered.
The Smith Factor
Another strong reason to back Royals is the Smith factor. As skipper, he came within a game of winning the IPL for Rising Pune Supergiants in 2017, an ambition he is keen to fulfil. As a player, he can bat anywhere in the order, holding one end up and providing support to a rampaging batsman, such as Samson or Buttler, at the other end. Most importantly, Smith’s experience and class could help inspire his wards to give their best when it matters.
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