The Rajasthan Royals (RR) are often termed the 'Moneyball' team of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The Rajasthan team management has more often than not put together a fighting team, despite their budget constraints, although they have loosened their purse strings a little bit in the last couple of years.
RR hold the distinction of being the champions of the inaugural edition of the IPL. Since then, the perennial underdogs have continued to build their team around lesser-known Indian players, with only a few established foreign recruits.
Our intention here is to come up with the best possible all-time XI for RR, comprising of players who have represented the franchise over the years in the IPL. The team has been put together sticking to the IPL rule of allowing no more than four overseas players in the playing XI.
Let us see which players find themselves a spot in the all-time RR XI.
#1: Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane is one of the openers in this all-time RR XI. The Mumbaikar has been one of the most consistent batsmen for RR, and is also their highest run-getter.
Rahane has aggregated 2810 runs for RR at an average of 34.26, along with a decent strike rate of 122.65. The touch artist has shown that the T20 game is not only about brute force and power, and that runs can be scored at a brisk pace through proper timing and placement.
Rahane has to his credit the most fifty-plus scores (19) for the Rajasthan outfit, which includes 2 centuries. His highest score of an unbeaten 105 is also the highest by any RR batsman in the history of the league.
#2: Jos Buttler
Jos Buttler is the other opening batsman in this all-time XI. The Englishman would be responsible for providing the early impetus to the RR innings, while Rahane would be the steadying influence at the other end. Apart from opening the batting, Buttler would also be performing the wicket-keeping duties for the franchise.
Buttler has smashed 859 runs in the two seasons he has been part of the Rajasthan franchise. The more significant factor is that these runs have come at an excellent average of 47.72, the highest among RR batsmen who have played a minimum of 10 innings, along with an outstanding strike rate of 153.94.
There could be some thoughts of including Rahul Dravid as one of the openers, but the telling impact that Buttler has created at the top of the order in the last 2 seasons would dispel any such thoughts.
Middle Order (3-4):
#3: Sanju Samson
Sanju Samson would walk in at the fall of the first wicket. The Kerala batsman has won the hearts of many a cricket aficionado with his classy and effortless batting.
Samson is the second-highest run-scorer among Indian batsmen for the Rajasthan outfit, only behind Rahane. He has accumulated 1532 runs for RR at an average of 27.85 and a strike rate of 131.61.
Samson, who has won a few matches for RR on his own, can also act as a back-up wicket-keeper in case the need arises.
#4: Steve Smith
Steve Smith would be the other specialist batsman in the RR middle-order. The Australian would be responsible for shepherding the Royals' innings in the middle-overs. His excellent game against spin would hold him in good stead in this regard.
Smith, given his lofty own standards, has not set the IPL alight, although he has come up with a few crucial match-winning innings. The unorthodox batsman has scored 759 runs for RR at an average of 33.00 at a modest strike rate of 125.24.
#5: Shane Watson
Shane Watson would play the principal all-rounder's role in this Royals' line-up. The Australian has been the x-factor for RR, and had a huge role to play in their title-winning run in IPL 2008.
The significance of Watson's contribution to RR can be gauged by the fact that he is both the second-highest run-scorer and the second-highest wicket-taker for the Rajasthan franchise. With the bat, he has gathered 2372 runs at an average of 36.49, and a strike rate of 141.27. He has been as successful with the ball in hand, having accounted for 61 wickets at a decent average of 27.88, along with an economy rate of 7.49.
For his all-round performances, Watson has been awarded the 'Most Valuable Player' of the IPL on two occasions, first in IPL 2008 and then again in IPL 2013. The former performance, 472 runs along with 17 wickets, went a long way in helping RR win their only IPL title in the inaugural edition of the league.
#6: Yusuf Pathan
Yusuf Pathan would play the role of a finisher and a part-time off-spinner. The Baroda all-rounder struck an attacking half-century in the IPL 2008 final to almost single-handedly snatch the title from CSK's grasp. That performance deservedly won him the Man of the Match award in the inaugural IPL final.
Overall, Pathan has scored 1011 runs for RR at an average of 26.60. But the talking point has been his strike rate of 161.24, the highest among all RR batsmen who have faced a minimum of 125 deliveries.
Even with the ball in hand, the senior Pathan has 20 scalps to his credit for RR, at an average of 35.95 along with a decent economy rate of 7.39.
#7: Ravindra Jadeja
Ravindra Jadeja would play the spin-bowling all-rounder's role. The left-arm spinner and lower-order batsman from Saurashtra caught the eye of Shane Warne in the inaugural season of the IPL, with the Australian great proclaiming him the 'Rockstar' of the team.
Although Jadeja did not set the IPL on fire while playing for RR, he gave enough indications of his talent with some match-winning innings and miserly spells.
The young Jadeja scored 430 runs for RR at an average of 23.88 with a strike rate of 116.53. Even though he picked up just 6 wickets with the ball at an average of 28.66, he kept a tight leash on the batsmen, as suggested by his economy rate of 6.74.
#8: Shreyas Gopal
Shreyas Gopal would be one of the spinners in this all-time RR XI. The Karnataka leg-spinner made a splash in last season's IPL with his consistent performances.
Gopal has taken 31 wickets in the two seasons he has represented the Jaipur-based franchise. The striking feature has been his average of 18.80, which is not only the best among all RR bowlers who have bowled a minimum of 250 deliveries, but also the best for any Indian bowler in the history of the league.
Even his economy rate of 7.37 is the best among all Indian bowlers who have represented the Royals and have delivered a minimum of 250 balls for them. To top it all, he even registered a hat-trick in last year's IPL against RCB.
#9: Shane Warne
Shane Warne would lead the RR spin attack. Unsurprisingly, having led RR to their only IPL title, the Australian spin wizard would also be at the helm of this hypothetical RR XI. With his ability to get the best out of talented youngsters, he would be the best option to captain the side.
Apart from his captaincy credentials, Warne had an excellent record for RR as a bowler as well. The wily leg-spinner accounted for 57 wickets at an average of 25.38 along with an economy rate of 7.27, the second-best among all Royals' bowlers with a minimum of 250 deliveries. This includes the 19 wickets he took in RR's title-winning run in IPL 2008.
#10: Munaf Patel
Munaf Patel would lead the RR pace attack in this all-time XI. The Baroda medium pacer would be an asset in the death overs with his clever changes of pace and the ability to bowl the yorker.
Patel scalped 33 wickets for RR at an excellent average of 23.60, along with a decent economy rate of 7.57. He would lend the necessary experience to the RR pace attack in this all-time XI.
#11: Siddharth Trivedi
Siddharth Trivedi would be the final member of this RR XI. The Gujarat medium-pacer is the most prolific bowler for the Royals in the history of the IPL.
Trivedi has accounted for 65 wickets for RR at an average of 29.29 with an economy rate of 7.58. He was also one of the success stories in the Rajasthan franchise's title-winning run in IPL 2008, accounting for 13 wickets.
Jofra Archer and Sohail Tanvir, who have dished out commendable performances for RR, could fancy their chances to be included in this all-time XI. But with only 4 foreigners allowed in the playing XI, it would be difficult to accommodate them.