Rajasthan Royals IPL 2013 April 4, 2013

Can Royals punch above their weight again?

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Big Picture

Forever the underdogs, Rajasthan Royals is one team that has always looked like a team since the first season. They have always had big impact players and there is something in the leadership that brings out the best from them. A fairytale first season aside though, they have struggled to find consistency and have been consigned with the reputation of arguably being the best of the second-tier teams.

Unlike the men from Chandigarh, Pune and Hyderabad, they have never have had disastrous campaigns; the strong leadership may have changed hands from Shane Warne's flamboyance to Rahul Dravid's more methodical, process-driven management style, but it has kept the team cohesive and focused on cricket.

The team this year again comes in with a battery of overseas players who are experienced and effective in Twenty20s. They have men like Brad Hodge, Owais Shah, Shaun Tait and Brad Hogg who have, quite profitably for themselves, carved out a career playing the short format. Throw Shane Watson, Kusal Perera, Kevon Cooper, Fidel Edwards and James Faulkner into the mix, and the team starts appearing as a strong contender. However, with only four of these trumps available at a time, the team management will have to identify which card to pull out when.

Their fortunes, though, would depend on how the local group supports the imports. Rahul Dravid led with passion last year, but he hasn't played cricket since and this season could well be his last. Then there is Sreesanth, who will be eager to make an impact after sitting out during last year's IPL. However, it won't be a surprise if both are inconsistent. But one guy who is expected to fire straightaway is Ajinkya Rahane and the team would look forward to the kind of starts he generated last year.

What they have lacked is the stamina to maintain their intensity through the tournament. They have always had decent starts but they tend to lose steam when the race gets tighter towards the end. Take last season for example where they were in the running to qualify for knockout stage with two games to go, but they were tripped by Deccan Chargers, the poorest team in the competition. This year, with most players available from the first match and all games being played in Jaipur, Royals are in a position to give the tournament their best shot.

Key players

The man of the tournament in the first edition, Shane Watson is among the few players who have stuck with one franchise and he hasn't fared badly at all. He has scored 1242 runs from 39 games and taken 35 wickets for Rajasthan and is in the same league as someone like Chris Gayle in dismantling any bowling attack. More importantly, this season he is available for the entire duration of the tournament, although he is likely to miss the first game. It is unclear as to why he is unavailable, but it is understood that he will be catching a flight over the next couple of days to join the team ahead of their second game against Kolkata Knight Riders on April 8. He had a tough time during the recent Tests in India and didn't bowl at all, but he had indicated earlier that he might start bowling during the IPL.

He may neither be a hard-hitting batsman nor a tearaway fast bowler, but allrounder Stuart Binny's role will be an important one among the second string locals in the team. He bowls gentle medium pace with a lot of variations in speed and is coming off a decent showing in domestic cricket, with 622 runs and 27 wickets off 11 matches this season. Royals would hope Binny brings the same value to their team as Rajat Bhatia does to Kolkata Knight Riders.

Big name in

Kusal Perera's recent run of scores (64, 56, 18*, 42, 336, 97, 203) is not the only exciting part about him, it is the manner in which he scores the runs that can set this tournament alight. The Sri Lankans have been calling him the next Sanath Jayasuriya and the similarity is not just limited to the whiplash square cut. Royals may have spent the most for James Faulkner ($400,000) but Perera, bought for a steal at $20,000, could well be the investment of the tournament.

Big name out

The departure of Johan Botha from Jaipur to Delhi has left Royals poorer in the spin department, but Botha's absence will be felt in the batting as well, as he was versatile enough to come up the order. He played 24 matches for Royals, in which he scored 335 runs and picked up 19 wickets.

Below the radar

It is not all just about his name; Kerala allrounder Sachin Baby recently flogged a 19-ball 48 against Delhi in the Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy (India's domestic T20 tournament) to pull off a tough chase. His T20 strike rate is over 150 and he can fill as an offspinner too. Left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh, who impressed Ian Chappell during last year's Under-19 World Cup, could also be in the spotlight.

Availability

Royals are well-placed this year with all their players available throughout the season.

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Aayatullah on April 6, 2013, 13:10 GMT

    What r Rr doing with all those medium pacers ?Is tait injured?Truly a weak bowling line up with cooper,trivedi,shukla.And sreeshanth ,u never know what he is going 2 do?

  • Qa_ankit on April 6, 2013, 7:48 GMT

    I want to add two points here. 1. I am trying to find out the final 11 of RR but really confused. As i think RR middle order is a bit weak and also i think indian players in RR Bunch are not big hitters. So if i take Rahane, Dravid out, who are the big hitter of indian soil. So i required foriegn players to do that. So my probable 11 with batting order mite be: Rahane, Parera (As no watson for this game), Dravid, Maneria, Hodge, Faulkner/Cooper, Binny , Hogg/Badree, Amit Singh, Trivedi, Shreesanth. Now if Hogg/Badree not playing then will replace them with Harmeet and Play Tait/Edwards in place of Shree.

    2. Who is this parera (To be honest i havent seen him) : I have heared about him a lot. Tried to search about him on net but cant find anything except of latest ODI series. Keen to see him. But once watson is back, will anyone prefer Watson instead of Parera or anyone else?

  • dummy4fb on April 6, 2013, 7:07 GMT

    LET KUSAL PLAY, Rajasthan Royal doesn't have much to loose

  • amolrtambolkar on April 6, 2013, 5:07 GMT

    RR - the team to watch out in IPL! Dravid, Watto, Rahane, Hodge, Tait, Cooper, Kusal, Badree...ohh boy they have long list of players and all are available!! Its been a tough task ahead for selectors to pick the best 11. Let's march RR boys - Hallabol!!!

  • dummy4fb on April 6, 2013, 4:02 GMT

    DD Chand WarnerJayawardene* Juneja Ojha† Botha Pathan Russell Nadeem Nehra Yadav

    RR:ahane, Kusal, Dravid, Hodge, Owais, Sanju, Sachin baby, Sreesanth, Tait, Harmeet, Trivedi.

  • BeCalmAndSupportEngland on April 5, 2013, 23:16 GMT

    @ Narbavi: yes we srilankans say, if RR wants to make in impact then let kusal open.dravid and rahane give u 30 in 6overs and kusal alone with give them 60 from 6overs.60 or 30 your choice.

  • dummy4fb on April 5, 2013, 19:59 GMT

    Rajasthan Royals last year bought Dinesh Chandimal for $50,000...... and kept him serving drinks and warming up the benches..... Its not fair... i hope you guyz don't do the same with Kushal perera...... Maybe you guyz only buy new foreign players just to serve drinks and warm the benches....

  • binu.emiliya on April 5, 2013, 19:58 GMT

    Rahane perara dravid shah meneria hodge baby binny tait shreeshanth harmeet

  • dummy4fb on April 5, 2013, 16:31 GMT

    Rahane, Kusal, Dravid, Hodge, Sachin baby, Manaria, Faulkner Sreesanth, Tait, Harmeet, Trivedi maybe the team for tomorrow. And when Watson joins the team, they might face a problem of plenty. As Watson is a sure shot in the team, but Hodge and Kusal are in their form of their life. Also one problem is the middle order selection, as Sachin Baby, Ashok Manaria and Stuart Binny are all in good form. A big problem, which might not be that big to look at but is, Cooper or Faulkner!! ROYAL for life.

  • MENDIS_Forever on April 5, 2013, 14:29 GMT

    @Narbavi : giving al due respect to Dravid...he is in his 40s and not a great asset for the T20s.