The Rajasthan Royals team in the IPL franchise cricket has been through more downs than ups in their journey since the inception of the Indian Premium League in 2008. Apart from winning the inaugural season-2008 of under the captaincy of Shane Warne, Rajasthan Royals have struggled to make their mark. After winning their first and only title in 2008, team RR barely managed to make it into the playoffs only thrice in 2013, 2015, and 2018. Rajasthan Royals also faced suspension for two years (2016-17) after the inquiries made by Lodha Committee in 2015 for violating BCCI norms.

What went wrong till now?

Rajasthan Royals surprised cricket-lovers when they became champions in 2008 despite having below-par players of international exposure and capabilities. After that, it has surprised by not making it big despite having players like Shane Watson, Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Buttler, and Sanju Samson, to name a few. Year after year, team Royals failed to perform as a team and relied heavily on individual match-winning performances. Team also lacked a consistent core of players in playing 11 and constantly reshuffled their team to try their luck. No doubt, Rajasthan Royals have a strong fanbase who support the team despite below-average performance over the years, but critics took RR as an amateur side yet to grow in franchise cricket.

Just before the beginning of the 2021 season of IPL, Sangakara was appointed as Director of Cricket for team RR. The team heavily relied on England cricketers like Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, and others as their overseas players. Even though Jofra was awarded the most valuable player of the season for his phenomenal performance at the end of the season, the team failed to make their way into the playoffs. After their consistent failure to have a balanced squad, this year’s mega auction provided them an opportunity to make a level playing field, at least in terms of a balanced team.

Mega-Auction: Level-playing field

In this year’s mega auction, Rajasthan Royals surprised everyone with their planning and execution when they signed two of the most lethal Indian spinners of the present time, R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal. Having retained Buttler, Sanju, and Yashswi Jaiswal already, they added the likes of Paddikal and Hetmeyer as batsmen. They also surprised everyone while bidding for a domestic player like Riyan Parag for 3+ Crore and when ultimately bought him. They bought Boult (previously played with Mumbai Indians), Prasidh Krishna, Navdeep Saini, and Kuldeep Sain for their bowling department to strengthen their squad further.

After the auction, like many special occasions, team Rajasthan Royals looked decorated on paper and more balanced than ever. They have Indian bowlers to rely on this time, and overseas players can fill in as batsmen. One more delightful surprise post-mega-auction was when they got Malinga, another limited-overs cricket bowling legend, as their fast bowling coach.

Season so far?

First, the season is played in Maharashtra, where dew plays an important role, and all the captains have chosen to chase because of the dew factor. To everybody’s surprise, toss has favored Sanju only once, and the other nine times, team RR has tried to defend the total. However, living up to the expectations of their fans, Rajasthan Royals have looked quite promising this season on the field. Having won six out of ten matches so far, Rajasthan Royals is a strong playoff contender. However, like every coin has two sides, every player has good and bad days.

Batting Side:

This team heavily relies on Buttler to lay the foundation, and Buttler has done that most of the time. Present orange cap holder Buttler has scored 588 runs in just ten outings with a whopping average of 65. However, apart from Hetmyer, Other batters have failed to perform consistently and take away the pressure of performance from Buttler. The batting side of the team suffers from another issue that is a fixed spot for performing players like Hetmyer. Sanju has also failed to make it big despite having a good start in almost all matches. The team has also shown immense courage by backing Riyan Parag despite failures, though in the game against RCB, Riyan redeemed himself by playing a match-winning inning. It would be a relief for fans that Rajasthan Royals has hit the maximum number of sixes so far to show their intent this year.

Bowling Side:

The Bowling side has never been the strength of RR throughout IPL seasons, but this year, they have successfully defended the total six out of nine times. Despite dew playing its role, the fielding and bowling of Rajasthan Royals have been impressive. Yuzvendra Chahal, having failed to take his place in the playing squad in the T20 world cup 2021, has bowled some match-winning spells. The present holder of the Purple cap, Chahal, has 19 wickets in his name in 10 matches, along with a match-turning hattrick against KKR. Chahal also got support from experienced R Ashwin, who might not have taken many wickets but made an impact by taking crucial wickets at crucial moments. Apart from the spinner duo, Krishna and Boult have also contributed. Their latest find, Kuldeep Sen, has also made his permanent place in playing 11 by showing his capabilities under pressure.

Obstacles and Way Forward:

Despite having a promising start, Rajasthan Royals have faced defeat in the last two outings. The fear is, is Rajasthan going on the same route of disappointing after a bright the first half. Rajasthan Royals is still to find their sixth batsman and consistent batting order. Riyan Parag’s role as an all-rounder also raises questions as he has barely bowled this season, and he has failed to show his bowling skills whenever bowled. With bat as well, apart from one fifty-plus score, in which he was dropped twice, he has been unable to live up to the expectation. Towards the end of the season, it would not be wise to try new players and reshuffle a lot, but the team still needs to find a balanced and reliable playing eleven combo. Nonetheless, they have four matches left in the group stage, and with both Orange and Purple caps within their squad, their prospect of making it to the play-offs looks bright. At this point, Rajasthan Royals would look to take their place in the top two to have two opportunities to make it to the finals.
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