Many in the cricketing fraternity feel that Rajasthan Royals has been a ‘perennial under-performer’ in the Indian Premier League. Season after season, the side has failed to impress despite having some big names in its ranks. While it still cherishes its first-ever and only title win in 2008, the trophy cabinet has been empty, since. This time, as the second leg of the tournament begins in the United Arab Emirates, Rajasthan Royals will be without the services of its three genuine match-winners — Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler. Placed fifth in the table, Royals have plenty to catch up if it needs to make it to the knock-out stage, and the conditions in the UAE could be a huge factor.
In the absence of Stokes and Buttler, the onus will be on the Indian batsmen — captain Sanju Samson, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shivam Dube and Riyan Parag. Overseas recruits Liam Livingstone and Glenn Phillips, too, could be effective in the placid surfaces. Coming in as a replacement player, Phillips has a lot to prove in the shorter format and Royals would expect him to come good. Over the years, the Royals’ batting department lacked depth and this time, it would be interesting to see how the team management addresses the issue. It would also need to ensure that captain Sanju shrugs off his ‘one-match wonder’ tag and contributes consistently — especially in crunch games.
New signings: Oshane Thomas, Glenn Phillips, Tabraiz Shamsi, Evin Lewis
Withdrawals: Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Andrew Tye, Jofra Archer
Standing: Fifth, Seven Matches, 6 points
All eyes, however, will be on Tabraiz Shamsi, the South African spinner, who has emerged as the top-ranked bowler in the T20Is. The 31-year-old has featured in several franchise leagues across the globe and has stamped his class. In the previous editions, Royals struggled in the spin department as the tweakers were largely inconsistent, but now, with Shamsi joining the side, Royals’ spin department will be bolstered.
In the first leg, the Royals found a star in Chetan Sakariya — who later broke into the Indian team — and in the UAE leg too, the franchise would want him to keep the momentum going. With Sakariya joining hands with Jaydev Unadkat, Mustafizur Rahman and Chris Morris, the side does have an impressive fast bowling line-up.
On paper, the team appears to be a decently balanced unit, however, in a tournament like the IPL, trivia seldom matters!