The eleventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will no doubt be bigger and better, but IPL 2018 will be all the more special as it will mark the return of 2008 champions Rajasthan Royals to the tournament fold after a gap of two years. After being labeled as a team full of utility cricketers who had to constantly punch above their respective weights for them to do well, the Royals team management went in for a complete overhaul of their recruitment strategy and announced their comeback in style as they shelled out mouth-watering money to secure the two most expensive players at the auction in January – Ben Stokes for INR 12.50 crore and Jaydev Unadkat for INR 11.50 crore. Rajasthan will also be boosted by the presence of legendary leg-spinner and former captain Shane Warne in their dugout, who will take up the role of a mentor with the franchise this year.
The Rajasthan Royals fans will be excited at the prospect of watching stalwarts like Ben Stokes, Ajinkya Rahane, Jos Buttler, D’Arcy Short and Jofra Archer playing at Jaipur’s Sawai Mansingh Stadium in IPL 2018. At the same time, the Royals’ team management will be bitterly disappointed at losing designated skipper Steve Smith to the infamous ball-tampering scandal which has rocked Australian cricket. They have, though, brought in South Africa’s big-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman Heinrich Klaasen as a replacement for Smith.
— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) April 2, 2018
With Ajinkya Rahane as captain, a coaching lineup including the likes of Shane Warne, Amol Muzumdar and Sairaj Bahutule, an array of international stars and domestic Indian players like Sanju Samson, Jaydev Unadkat, Shreyas Gopal, Stuart Binny, Krishnappa Gowtham, Dhawal Kulkarni and Rahul Tripathi at their disposal, the Royals will certainly be aiming to emulate their 2008 title-winning run in 2018.
Rajasthan Royals complete IPL 2018 Squad:
Ajinkya Rahane (C), Ben Stokes, Jaydev Unadkat, Sanju Samson, Jofra Archer, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jos Buttler, Heinrich Klaasen, Darcy Short, Rahul Tripathi, Dhawal Kulkarni, Zahir Khan Pakteen, Ben Laughlin, Stuart Binny, Dushmantha Chameera, Anureet Singh, Aryaman Vikram Birla, Midhun S, Shreyas Gopal, Prashant Chopra, Jatin Saxena, Ankit Sharma, Mahipal Lomror
— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) January 28, 2018
Rajasthan Royals Probable Playing XI:
Ajinkya Rahane (C), D’Arcy Short, Rahul Tripathi, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Stuart Binny, Jofra Archer, Krishnappa Gowtham, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat
IPL 2018: Swot Analysis of Rajasthan Royals Squad
Ahead of IPL 2018, we bring you a detailed SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the Rajasthan Royals squad:
IPL 2018: Rajasthan Royals (RR) SWOT Analysis – Strengths
1. The maverick genius of Ben Stokes
The Royals surprised the cricketing fraternity when they went all out for Ben Stokes at the mega IPL auction in January and ultimately secured his services for whopping price tag of INR 12.5 crore, making the Englishman the most expensive player in the league for the second year running. What makes the deal worth it for Rajasthan is Stokes’ proven track record and his game-changing ability. The controversial all-rounder also emerged as IPL’s ‘Most Valuable Player’ (MVP) in his debut campaign last season.
Ben Stokes’ IPL career in numbers:
|Matches||Runs||Highest||Average||Batting SR||Wickets||Economy||Bowling SR|
2. Plenty of explosive batting options
In Jos Buttler, D’Arcy Short and Rahul Tripathi, the Rajasthan Royals have three of the most destructive T20 batters in their side and will fancy their chances of putting up a big score or chasing down any total in the league this year.
Buttler is an experienced limited-overs batsman and has a strike-rate of over 160 while batting in the powerplay overs in the IPL. Tripathi emerged as one of the finds of IPL 2017 and recorded an astonishing strike-rate of 170 in the powerplay overs, while also scoring an average of 34 runs during the same period. Short, on the other hand, made his name while playing in Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL07) where he emerged as the season’s highest run-getter and also forced his way into the national side recently.
South African dasher Heinrich Klaasen has also joined the side as Steve Smith’s replacement.
3. Reliable death bowlers
Rajasthan Royals did well to bring in four proven death-overs specialists like Jofra Archer, Ben Laughlin, Dhawal Kulkarni and Jaydev Unadkat to lead their bowling attack in IPL 11. Skipper Ajinkya Rahane will also have Ben Stokes at his disposal, who is again a solid option to have at the back end of an innings.
4. Shane Warne’s presence in the dugout
Rajasthan’s title-win in the inaugural IPL season was largely down to captain Shane Warne’s immaculate leadership and man-management skills. This year, the legendary leg-spinner is back with the franchise in the capacity of a mentor and his presence in the Royals’ dugout is likely to be a huge ace up their sleeve as they prepare to launch an assault on the coveted trophy in their comeback season.
IPL 2018: Rajasthan Royals (RR) SWOT Analysis – Weaknesses
1. Lack of proven spinners
While they did bring in plenty of international T20 stars at the auction, the Royals’ management failed to sign up a world-class spinner with a proven IPL track record behind him. They did shell out an eye catching figure of INR 6.5 crore for Karnataka spinner Krishnappa Gowtham and also signed up his state teammate Shreyas Gopal. Afghanistan’s 19-year-old chinaman bowler Zahir Khan Pakteen will also fancy his chances of getting some serious game time if the above-mentioned names don’t fire.
2. Jaydev Unadkat’s poor form
In a development that surprised one and all, Jaydev Unadkat emerged as the highest paid Indian player at the IPL auction this year as Rajasthan shelled out INR 11.50 crore for the Saurashtra bowler. He will now be expected to be their undisputed bowling leader, a fact which might haunt the Royals as Unadkat is going through a lean patch of form and had to endure some real bashing while opening the bowling for India in the recently concluded Nidahas Trophy.
3. Inexperienced Indian contingent
Other than captain Ajinkya Rahane and record buy Javdev Unadkat, Rajasthan don’t have any other player who is a part of the Indian setup at present. Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson and Dhawal Kulkarni have minimal experience of playing for the country. Players like Rahul Tripathi, Krishnappa Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal, Mahipal Lomror are potential stars but might find themselves lacking on the big stage.
4. Steve Smith’s absence
Steve Smith’s ban and subsequent absence is bound to hurt the Royals as other than being their designated captain, the world’s top-ranked Test batsman was also expected to be the lynchpin of Rajasthan’s batting in IPL 2018. Smith has an IPL record of scoring more than 22 runs at a strike-rate of 150 in the powerplay overs, while also being a perfect finisher as he hits a boundary in every 4.4 deliveries in the death overs. Losing a stalwart like Smith just before the season will be a bitter pill to swallow for the franchise.
IPL 2018: Rajasthan Royals (RR) SWOT Analysis – Opportunities
1. Chance for Ajinkya Rahane to prove his white-ball mettle
While Rahane is India’s designated vice-captain in the Test format, he has often found himself in and out of the side in the limited-overs formats with both former captain MS Dhoni and current leader Virat Kohli failing to find a regular spot for the mellow Mumbaikar. With the ball-tampering fiasco consuming Steve Smith, Rahane will now lead the Rajasthan Royals in IPL 11 and also have the chance to showcase his skills in the shortest format of the game.
2. Zahir Khan Pakteen
One area where Rajasthan are seriously lacking is their spin department. Karnataka’s Krishnappa Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal are the only recognised tweakers in their squad, with local boy Mahipal Lomror providing a decent backup option. As a result, skipper Ajinkya Rahane might have to dig in hard to find a spinner who can assist him on a turning track like the one in Chennai. This is where Afghanistan’s 19-year-old chinaman bowler Zahir Khan Pakteen might come into play. The country has already produced two sensational spinners in the form of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman and young Zahir might just be the next name on the list.
3. Ben Stokes’ shot at redemption
IPL’s record buy Ben Stokes has also found himself embroiled in plenty of controversies as he was allegedly involved in a brawl outside a pub in Bristol last September. While Stokes has indeed made a comeback to international cricket after a brief layoff, IPL will provide him with an opportunity to seek redemption on a global stage and get the focus back on his revered cricketing skills.
IPL 2018: Rajasthan Royals (RR) SWOT Analysis – Threats
1. Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson – Two notoriously slow starters
Captain Rahane and Samson – two of Rajasthan’s top-order batsmen are known to be slow starters in the IPL. While Rahane has a strike-rate of 120 in the powerplay overs, he only scores an average of about 20 runs in the first 6 overs. The Indian Test vice-captain also has a dot ball percentage of 25 while batting in the death overs. Samson, on the other hand, has an even worse powerplay strike-rate of 117 and manages a meager 17 runs during the stated bracket of six overs.
2. The Steve Smith ball-tampering controversy
As stated earlier, former captain Steve Smith has drawn plenty of unwarranted attention in recent days and has already been suspended from playing in the league owing to his role in the ball-tampering scandal. The whole saga has the potential to become a major talking point in the Royals’ dressing room and cause disruptions as the very beginning of this season.
3. Jofra Archer’s injury concerns
Like D’Arcy Short, Jofra Archer also emerged as one of the finds of the recent Big Bash League – prompting Rajasthan to part with INR 7.20 crore to have him onboard. While the deal certainly made sense at the time of auction in January, Archer has subsequently suffered a dip in form and also suffered an injury midway through the Pakistan Super League (PSL) season in March. As a result, Archer might end up missing the early stages of IPL 2018.
WATCH: Rajasthan Royals Official Anthem 2018
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