IPL: Rajasthan Royals’ plans on expected lines

The Royals management kept things simple and even did not hesitate in spending big when need

Rajasthan Royals will be pinning its hopes on the two old boys, Ajinkya Rahane and Steven Smith.   -  PTI

Those who have followed Rajasthan Royals since its beginning would agree that this is one franchise which has never really chased stars. Rather, it has focused on scouting young local talents and getting the best out of them.

So, when the team returned to the Indian Premier League (IPL) fold after a two-year suspension, there was enough curiosity over the team’s planning. On the expected lines, the franchise, too, decided to retain just one of its players from the batch of 2015 and invariably chose Steve Smith as the right candidate.

READ: Royals planning 'broader leadership' role for Stokes

The idea was simple: to keep the Australian — who knows the team dynamics well — as the skipper and then pick the rest of the squad from the auctions. With a big purse of Rs. 67.5 crore, Royals had everything to play for in the auctions and it exactly did so. Aware of the fact that it would not be able to get most of the stars due to Right to Match card, Royals did not mind bidding heavily for England all-rounder Ben Stokes, and ended up spending a whopping Rs. 12.5 crore on him.

It needed someone who would spearhead the bowling attack and would also contribute with the bat, and that’s where Stoke came in. While there is no doubt over his ability, there is certainly a big question mark over his availability due to the legal tangle. Royals, however, has decided to take the risk.

READ: Chennai Super Kings retains core

If Stokes’ inclusion is a major development, eyebrows were raised when the franchise bought pacer Jaydev Unadkat for an amount of Rs. 11.5 crore, the highest for an Indian. It’s true that Unadkat had a great outing with Rising Pune Supergiant last season, but in a fast and furious format like the IPL, Royals will have to ensure that the Saurashtra medium-pacer remains fit and maintains form.

Let’s face it, Royals has literally gone out of the way to get him, so Unadkat will have to justify his price.

While it splurged heavily on Stokes and Unadkat, Royals played it tight in other departments. It used the Right to Match card to get back its old warhorse Ajinkya Rahane to bolster the batting department. The rest of the focus was on getting the numbers within the budget and it brought in domestic talents— Rahul Tripathi and Shreyas Gopal. It also ensured that the old boys like Sanju Samson and Stuart Binny were brought on board to get the core team right. And by all this, the Royals management kept things simple and even did not hesitate in spending big when needed.

Though it did not bid for local talents from Rajasthan — with the exception of Mahipal Lomror — Royals ticked the right box by picking Prashant Chopra, the stumper-batsman from Himachal Pradesh, in the side. Known for his fiery style of batting, Chopra could certainly be a contender for the opening slot in the Rajasthan outfit.

However, the biggest surprise came towards the end of the auction when Royals roped in Madhya Pradesh cricketer Aryaman Vikram Birla. The youngster, who is originally from Mumbai, is the son of business tycoon, Kumar Mangalam Birla. So, by just one bid, Royals also made its presence felt in the corporate corridors.

THE SQUAD

Steve Smith (captain), Stuart Binny, Ben Stokes, Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler, Rahul Tripathi, D’Arcy Short, Jofra Archer, Gowtham Krishnappa, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Sharma, Anureet Singh, Zahir Khan Pakteen, Shreyas Gopal, MS Midhun, Prashant Chopra, Ben Laughlin, Mahipal Lomror, Jatin Saxena, Aryaman Vikram Birla, Dushmanta Chameera.

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