Rajasthan Royals had a disappointing season last year as they finished bottom of the points table. Going into the new season, they parted ways with Steve Smith, who led the team in 2020 and appointed Sanju Samson as the new skipper. The team management is hoping for a turnaround this year under the new leadership of dashing batsman from Kerala.
Their premier pacer Jofra Archer will miss this edition of the IPL due to an injury. It will significantly weaken the side's already depleted bowling attack. Royals' big money recruit Chris Morris is expected to shoulder the burden in the absence of Archer.
The Rajasthan franchise will start their season against the Punjab Kings at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on 12 April.
Prior to their IPL 2021 campaign, Royals released Steve Smith, Ankit Rajpoot, Oshane Thomas, Akash Singh, Varun Aaron, Tom Curran, Aniruddha Joshi and Shashank Singh from their squad.
And during the IPL 2021 auction, they made some big money purchases, buying in Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Mustafizur Rahman, Chetan Sakariya, KC Cariappa, Liam Livingstone, Kuldip Yadav and Akash Singh to bolster their squad.
Squad: Sanju Samson(c), Andrew Tye, Anuj Rawat, Ben Stokes, David Miller, Jaydev Unadkat, Jos Buttler, Kartik Tyagi, Mahipal Lomror, Manan Vohra, Mayank Markande, Rahul Tewatia, Riyan Parag, Shreyas Gopal, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Mustafizur Rahman, Chetan Sakariya, KC Cariappa, Liam Livingstone, Kuldip Yadav, Akash Singh
Rajasthan has conventionally been a top-heavy side with an inexperienced Indian middle order. Last year they tried to sort out that issue by using Jos Buttler in the middle-order. But this year, they are likely to revert to opening with Buttler and hence might need to find a quality international finisher.
Now let's look at the best possible combination for the Rajasthan Royals in the upcoming IPL season.
Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes
The dynamic English duo of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler are likely to open the innings for Rajasthan Royals this year. Buttler's breakthrough season in the IPL came in 2018 when he regularly opened the innings for his side.
That season, he scored 548 runs at an impressive average of 54.80 and a phenomenal strike rate of 155.24, which included five half-centuries. But over the last two seasons, Buttler's position in the batting order consistently altered, meaning his returns with the bat diminished significantly.
For the greater good, the RR team management must appoint Jos Buttler as the side's designated opener. His partner can be the one who varies according to the pitch conditions and team balance requirements. Stokes would be an ideal choice for this role.
But if the Royals decide that they want an experienced international player to strengthen their middle-order, the opening slot will open up. In such a scenario, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Manan Vohra would be the most likely contenders to partner with Buttler at the top.
Sanju Samson (c), David Miller, Shivam Dube, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia
Skipper Sanju Samson's batting form will be a crucial deciding factor in his team's journey this season. He is an elegant stroke maker with a penchant for hitting mammoth sixes, but lacks the consistency to elevate his stature into the elite league of players in the country. The team management will hope that Samson will imbibe that missing quality into his game this season and shepherd his side towards a triumphant season.
Destructive South African middle-order batsman David Miller has been in good hitting form in recent times. He scored back-to-back fifties against the Pakistan team last week. The Royals will hope he carries his rich vein of form in the IPL as well. Miller's consistent performances in the middle-order would allow Stokes to open the innings with Buttler.
Shivam Dube, Riyaan Parag, and Rahul Tewatia will take up the remaining slots in the line-up. Both Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal's performances in international T20 cricket have dipped in the recent past. So the leg-spinner's slot for the national team might be up for grabs. Tewatia will be hoping to perform well with both ball and bat as a great IPL season might acquire him that berth in the Indian T20I line-up.
Chris Morris, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Kartik Tyagi
In the absence of Jofra Archer, Chris Morris will spearhead the Rajasthan Royals bowling attack during the upcoming season. Jaydev Unadkat and young Karthik Tyagi will join Morris in the pace department.
Royals will play a combined eight matches at Wankhede and Eden Gardens this season. These venues usually assist pace. The Rajastan-based franchise will be hopeful of some match-winning contributions from their fast bowlers.
Unadkat will most likely start the season in the playing XI but has to perform consistently to hold on to his place. Lesser-known domestic pacers Chetan Sakariya and Kuldip Yadav might make their IPL debuts if Unadkat fails to impress.
Leggies Shreyas Gopal, Rahul Tewatia and Riyan Parag will manage the spin department this season. But at the end of the day, Rajasthan's fortunes in the bowling department will rely heavily on Morris's performance in the death overs.
Best XI: Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson (c), David Miller, Shivam Dube, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Chris Morris, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Kartik Tyagi