The return of Rajasthan Royals: Can they win IPL 2018?

The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 will see the return of Rajasthan Royals, after a two-year forced hiatus owing to the match-fixing scandal. They won the first edition of the IPL as dark horses under Shane Warne’s charismatic captaincy.

Can they win the 11th edition?

Quick preview

The short answer is No.

Many things are stacked against the team. There are other better teams on view. Their spin department is thin. And they lost the only player they had retained, who was also the designated captain, even before a ball is bowled in the IPL: Steven Smith. He is facing a one-year ban following the ball tampering incident in South Africa. The team will miss Smith as a batsman. But the good thing is that they have got a better skipper: Ajinkya Rahane.

If they have any chances, it depends mainly on Rahane’s bold and innovative captaincy. Rahane has the right kind of team for deploying his tactical nous – most of them are capable youngsters, ready and eager to impress the cricketing world.

There is one more thing that could make or break Royals’ season: the performance of Ben Stokes. Stokes has to fire with the bat, with the ball and on the field. Otherwise, the Royals will not last the distance.

So, that means you can write off Rajasthan Royals in this year’ IPL? Not exactly.

Detailed analysis

Rajasthan Royals still have their chance. Here’s why.

They have a good team – though not an awesome team. The departure of Smith has robbed the team of an alpha-male in the batting line-up. But they do have a decent collection of all-rounders. Their fast-bowling stocks are excellent. But then again, the lack of a proven Indian spinner will hurt their chances as the tournament progresses.

Batting

Rajasthan Royals’ batting line-up, even without Smith, is filled with stroke-makers of various hues. Rahane will open with Rahul Thripathi, who in the last year’s IPL exploded towards the end of the season and provided sparkling starts to Pune Supergiants. Thripathi, the high-voltage hard-hitter, and Rahane, the stabilizer, will make an interesting opening duo.

There is a Smith-shaped hole in the top order. His replacement, the South-African wicket-keeper batsman Heinrich Klaasen, can at best be a surprise package. The onus really is on Sanju Samson, D’Arcy Short/Jos Butler and Stokes to shoulder the additional responsibility. The team has some useful hard-hitting all-rounders too: Mahipal Lomror, Jofra Archer and Stuart Binny. Overall, the batting is good – just good enough.

Bowling

Their pace bowling department too is sharp and varied. In Jaydev Unadkat and Dhawal Kulkarni, they have two good wicket-taking Indian fast bowlers. Jofra Archer is kind of a T-20 specialist death bowler. Ben Laughlin too can don the role of the big fast bowler. The presence of Stokes allows the Rajasthan side to field four good fast bowlers in all the matches.

What the team lacks is a good spinner – to be precise, a good Indian spinner. Heard of Shreyas Gopal and MS Midhun? They are Rajasthan Royals’ Indian specialist spinners. Dushmanta Chameera, the Sri Lankan off-spinner, can be handy. But his inclusion will upset the overall team formation, as only four foreigners will be allowed in an eleven.

Prediction

Expect the team to punch above their collective weight. If the fringe players like Thripathi, Lomror and Binny manage to produce a spectacular season, and Rahane and Stokes play just as well as expected, Rajasthan Royals could reach the finals. Even if that happens, the chances of winning the IPL crown are rather slim.


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